Joey Depina’s late grandmother molded him into the man he is today.
“She raised me,” he said. “My mother was extremely young when she had me and my gram took care of all us and held the family down. She was more than a grandmother.”
She passed away in November of 2019, but the values she instilled in him live on.
“She always taught me to work hard in something you love,” he said.
That’s just what the Whitman native did. After months of training, Depina made the Eastern Nazarene men’s basketball team as a walk-on.
“This is for her like everything I do, whether it is in the classroom or basketball, I perform for her to make her happy,” said Depina, a former captain of the W-H boys’ basketball team. “I know she is always looking down on me, so I always want to work hard in life to make her proud. Making the team this year is definitely an achievement I did for her.”
Depina, a sophomore at ENC, spent most of his freshman year on the junior varsity squad, but when the pandemic began and players returned home, the varsity squad called him up. Depina said he knew if he put in the work during the offseason, he could earn another call-up.
“The quarantine really helped coming into this year,” Depina explained. “I would lift at my house every day and also play basketball in my backyard, like working on my handles, shooting, footwork and different moves with my friends, Samuel Rodguies and Nyron Dunnamanio. Focusing on myself as a basketball player really helped me get better.”
About a month after school began this year, the varsity squad gave him another chance. He never looked back.
“Coach [Sean] Foley (assistant coach) brought me into his office and asked if I would take the opportunity to workout with the varsity because they are low because of injuries and I am the type of player they can rely on,” Depina explained. “I told the coach that I would take the offer.
“After the afternoon practice, coach said that he wanted to attend media day and smiled at me. When I left the meeting, I was extremely happy and ready to work even harder to get better in my craft for the team.”
Depina and the Lions will likely tip off their season sometime in January.
“My goals before hitting the court are still learning different moves and players with the team,” Depina said. “I want to keep getting better with this group of players, I call my brothers to end up with a ring when the season starts. I am extremely excited about entering this season because it is a new experience for me.”