JOE Chapman may have graduated from one of the best basketball colleges in America, but it is a spell in the school of hard knocks that makes him feel “blessed” to be part of a Newcastle Eagles side tilting at history tomorrow.
His university athletics career saw him play a key part for the Marquette Golden Eagles, one of the leading lights in the NCAA’s Big East conference.
With NBA all-star Dwyane Wade as part of his family, class act Chapman would be forgiven for aiming a bit higher than the BBL in the future.
That ignores the potentially devastating impact of two cruciate ligament injuries, however. The second of those cut Chapman down in his prime last season – and led to some questioning whether he would ever recover sufficiently to resume his professional career.
Although not quite at the level he feels capable of attaining, Chapman agrees that he answered those queries emphatically this season. Clinching a clean sweep with this impressive Eagles side would be a fitting final flourish to a wonderful comeback campaign.
Chapman’s Newcastle take on Leicester Riders at the Birmingham NIA in the BBL Play-Off final – and he says that a fourth trophy will give him a real sense of accomplishment.
“It feels extra special because of everything that I’ve been through,” he said. “It is a blessing to be able to go out there and perform, and although I was always determined to do that, it is still a great feeling to be able to do it.
“I have always been a focused individual, ever since I used to play in High School. When it comes to basketball I look forward to doing the things that make me better as an athlete and as a person.
“The injury was something that I had to overcome at the start of the season. It took a while and it was hard work, but I feel like I have proved something this year – and this would be a massive achievement for everyone at the Eagles, especially after we missed out last season.”
A devout Christian, Chapman found great solace in his faith as he took to the long road to recovery last year.
“Faith has always been important to me,” he said.
“When things have happened to me in the past, such as my mother passing away four years ago, I have turned to my faith. It drives me, it is what motivates me.
“When bad things happen to me, I have something to depend on and somewhere to go. It drives me on in everything I do.
“It is nothing to be ashamed of, I’m proud of it. I know no-one is perfect but I have something that I believe in and I will go out there and wear it on my sleeve.”
Chapman heads into Saturday’s game on the back of being named the British Basketball Journalist Association’s player of the season – an award he has picked up for the second time in three years.