Merton pushes team towards success

With over 3,585 minutes played, 1,500 points made, and 500 rebounds collected, there is no question as to why Jeffery “Jeff” Merton ‘18 is considered an invaluable player to the Rollins men’s basketball team.

The Naples, Fla. native has nailed two buzzer-beaters for the team this season, with the most recent feat being against Lynn University.

“Any shot I take, I am confident I can make because of the relentless work I’ve put into working on my game. I want to give a lot of credit to our point guard, Connor McKim, for setting me up perfectly to get off a good shot,” Merton explained.

“Seeing the clock hit zero and the team sprint off the bench to me and the crowd cheering is such a blessed feeling. That is a shot that every player dreams about hitting and to be able to do it twice in such a short span is an awesome accomplishment,” he continued.

The dramatic 64-63 victory extended the team’s winning streak to six games and improved their record to 14-7 on the season. The win also gave Rollins the sole possession of first place in the Sunshine State Conference (SSC).

Merton has been in multiple high-pressure situations before and continues to perform smoothly. Growing up in south Florida, Merton attended the Community School of Naples and led his high school team to tremendous success.

More recently, Merton was spectacular during the game against Lynn. The senior forward led the Tars in multiple game categories.

Playing throughout nearly the entire game, Merton totaled for 18 points shooting 43 percent from the field.

Furthermore, he grabbed eight rebounds and connected four three-pointers including the game-winning shot assisted by Connor McKim ‘20.

Merton explained what went through his mind after hitting the game winner. “The feeling is hard to describe. I had hit a buzzer beater two weeks prior to that game, so I had an enormous amount of confidence when the ball was in my hand for those last three seconds of the game.” The earlier game-winning shot he is referring to was against the University of Tampa in early January.

Merton’s success is not only bound to this year. In his junior season he was named both SSC Tournament MVP and NCAA DII South Region Tournament MVP.

The student athlete looks to finish out his senior season on a high note. When talking about his expectations on the rest of the season, he said, “As of right now we hold the #1 spot in the conference. We understand that every game will be a dog fight and that all teams are out to get us.”

He elaborated, “With that being said, we have to come out every practice and every game knowing that we have to give 100%. We have an opportunity to be a very successful team and make another run into the NCAA tournament. We are a well-rounded team and have so many weapons offensively and defensively.”

Merton and the entire men’s basketball team are eager to finish this season strong and see how far they can go. After making it to the Elite Eight last season and having 11 upperclassmen return this season, anything is possible for them.

The next home game for the Tars is Saturday, Feb. 10 at 4 p.m. against Palm Beach Atlantic. It is one of only four remaining games in the regular season before the conference tournament begins on Feb. 28.

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