by Paul Morgan
For Kalamazoo College men’s basketball team member Joe Prepolec, his improvement from the first day he stepped on the court through his just completed senior season has been remarkable.
What he has accomplished in four years in the classroom is even better.
The 6-foot-6 center had only played two years of basketball at Bloomfield Hills Andover after being on the forensics team his freshman and sophomore years. He blossomed into one of the top players in the MIAA, earning all-league honors his final three seasons. His senior year, Prepolec was seventh in the league in scoring (14.5), third in rebounding (7.5), and third in blocked shots per game (1.54).
He finished his K career as the Hornets’ eighth all-time leading scorer with 1,305 points.
He will also graduate with a 3.6 grade-point average, majoring in economics with a minor in math. That’s not bad for a student-athlete who came to college on conditional admission.
“I was nowhere near the student I am now,’’ he said. “Academics weren’t the most important thing for me in high school, but it has become that at K and it was an easy transition to make.
“Everyone is pushing themselves to get the most out of their academic experience, it’s easy to push yourself to that next threshold.’’
For Prepolec, the next threshold involves an internship before going onto a university for a master’s program. He has an opportunity with Merrill Lynch or he could go with Quicken Loans in mortgage finance, “but I would really like to get to Chicago, and I’m still pursuing things there,’’ he said. “I absolutely want to pursue a master’s program, but most of the better programs want work experience.’’
And besides, he wants to put off the adult-stuff for another summer if he can.
“I managed at the tennis tournament (USTA Boys 18-16 National Championships at Stowe Stadium) in my sophomore year, and I decided to stick with that this summer and hopefully push my job opportunities until after the summer,’’ Prepolec said. “I can be a grownup later.’’
He admits he has grown a lot in the past four years. Besides pushing himself on campus, he spent his study abroad time in Strasbourg, France.
“It was an unbelievable experience, just immersing yourself in the culture,’’ Prepolec said.
Studying on the long bus
"I came into the first day with notebook and pen in hand."rides returning from games in Alma or Adrian or wherever will jolt a student-athlete back to reality.
“I didn’t make a lot of friends when the two guys sitting next to me wanted to sleep while I wanted the light on to study,’’ Prepolec said with a chuckle. “We put a 15-week course into 10 weeks so the need for strong time management skills is crucial.’’
He started learning those skills the summer before he entered K when he moved to Kalamazoo and roomed with four seniors.
“With that experience, I was well prepared because there wasn’t a day that went by they didn’t try to scare me, to make sure I was ready,’’ Prepolec said. “I came into the first day with notebook and pen in hand, ready for the worst."
“You quickly notice, though, what it takes to make a successful Kalamazoo College student.’’
And it just got better and better for Prepolec, who pushed himself and accomplished even more than he thought he could in four years. That work ethic and the great gains he made learning how to learn he expects will open doors for him for the next 40 years or more.
Photo – Joe Prepolec scores over the Calvin College defense.