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Back to a packed Patrick

Grad seniors Benny Shungu and Bailey Patella looking to recapture advantages missing last season
Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 11:02 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - On Tuesday, we caught up with a pair of UVM men’s basketball stars returning for the extra season they were granted as a result of the COVID pandemic. Benny Shungu and Bailey Patella are working with their team, and they’re looking forward to having a few advantages back they were missing last Winter.

One of the things that’s kind of been a driving factor for you guys over the last couple of years is Patrick Gym. This building has really been a fortress. You guys have a lot of success here. Didn’t have as much of that last year. How much of an added advantage will it be to have fans back in this building?

“Just having fans behind us and the energy, especially Bailey’s Dad, but there’s a bunch of fans who are like that as well, that’s literally a part of us, really,” Shungu said. “We feed off of that too so having fans this year will be a blessing and I can’t wait to hear all the fans and energy, and you know just the support that they have given us over the years.”

Bailey, what have you heard from Tony (his father), just kind of asking questions about being able to come back in here as a fan this year?

“Oh, he has mapped out every game,” Patella said. “He’s gonna try to be at every one. He’s been asking me since the season last year, ‘There gonna be fans next year? There gonna be fans next year?’ I said, ‘Yeah, Dad, there’ll be fans. We’ll make sure you get in there.’ So he’ll bring the energy, hopefully everyone else follows.”

How much better is it to have an opportunity to practice together as a full group, not be restricted as much in your movement, and have to deal with COVID tests every day and stuff like that?

“I mean it’s much easier,” Patella said. “I think last year was a very stressful time for a lot of people. And you know, coming in three days a week to get the COVID test and then you’re waiting on that negative result just so you can resume playing, it’s a lot of mental fatigue. And then you know if you get put in quarantine, then you have the physical fatigue on top of that so I think it’s good, it feels kind of like a fresh start.”

Is it nice knowing that you kind of have the window to figure things out in a nonconference situation this year, because you didn’t have that opportunity last year.

“Last year, we kind just went straight to it,” Shungu said of the 2020-21 conference slate. “In the past years, we’ve used our nonconference, even our exhibition games, we’ve used those games at times to really kind of figure out where we’re at as a group and what we need going into our conference and stuff. This year we’re able to have those exhibition games and play in nonconference, that’ll definitely help us with kind of where we want to be as well as see kind of where we’re at.”

You guys have obviously been around this program for so long. What does it mean to you to have this one final opportunity to come out and represent your school and have another chance to kind of achieve that goal you missed out on last year?

“It’s a blessing to be around all these people,” Shungu said. “It’s a blessing to learn from my peers as well as the coaching staff. You know, just to be a part of a Vermont program and what we stand for.”

“We’re in a unique opportunity here,” Patella said. “Not everyone gets to play sports in college, and not everyone gets to be lucky enough to have a fifth year...sixth year, Benny. But we’ve built a great foundation. I’m just excited to get back to work, work this whole month and then get into the games and hopefully bring us a championship.”

The UVM men’s basketball season kicks off with an exhibition game against St. Mike’s at Patrick Gym on October 30th. The regular season gets underway with a trip to Northern Iowa on November 11th.

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