By Benjamin Moy
Many times in life, you find yourself presented with two choices. You can work hard and pursue your dreams through setting goals, or give up. For senior Kevin Noon, he chose the latter and has now seen his work ethic pay off. Noon, a 6’1” guard, will be wearing number 12 for the Rider basketball team this year as a walk-on player, a process that is not always easy.
Noon was the team’s manager prior to having a roster spot. His managerial duties included everything from making sure the uniforms were ready for the team to helping clean up the court if it was dirty.
Part of what makes him special is his positive, never-say-die attitude, according to the players and coaches around him.
Jeff Jones, a senior transfer from Virginia, had positive things to say about Noon.
“He is a hard worker,” Jones said. “I’ve always seen him work hard, and I was a good friend to Kevin. I was doing him a favor to ask coach to get him on the team. He’s always in the gym early, he’s always in there late, so I saw how much of a hard worker he was, and I thought he would be a good addition to the team.”
Coach Tommy Dempsey also had good things to say.
“He’s an energy guy, and I’m always looking to surround myself with the most positive people that I can,” Dempsey said. “I think as a walk-on, part of your job is to bring it every day, to be a real positive influence on the other guys on the team, on the younger guys, and setting a good example. I think Kevin fits that mold well.”
Noon’s passion for basketball began very early in his childhood.
“I’ve been playing basketball my whole life,” Noon said. “I lettered for three years at Cherry Hill High School West. In high school I was a role player. I did a little bit of everything. I’ve always loved the game, and I’ve always had a passion for it.”
In his junior year of high school, Noon was awarded the Albert J. Carino South Jersey Unsung Hero Award. The honor is given annually to a South Jersey basketball player that demonstrates unending contribution, dedication, unselfish attitude and tireless effort in support of his team and the game of basketball.
“This is my most treasured award because the little things in basketball such as taking charges, being a leader and an energy guy are intangibles that don’t show up in the box score but make a big difference,” he said.
This season, Noon, Jones and Dempsey are all optimistic about the team’s chances in a tough MAAC conference.
“We have a good team, and we have a lot of talent,” Noon said. “Novar Gadson is going to be a senior, as well as Brandon Penn, so those three will probably handle our offense, and Jon Thompson will be our point guard. He’s a terrific passer; he has a good vision and knowledge for the game.”
Dempsey agreed with his newly minted walk-on.
“I think we have a good team this year,” Dempsey said. “I expect us to play hard, and to continue on the tradition that we’re building here. I expect us to play good basketball, and to continue to be a winning program.”
Jones was also positive about this coming season, especially with the team’s potential.
“I think we have a really good team,” Jones said. “We have a good chance to go far and also to make the NCAA tournament. We have a lot of talent. This year will be exciting, with over 10 games on TV. I think it’s great for Coach Dempsey and Rider University’s basketball program.”
Noon won’t be the first walk-on for the team in recent years. Kevin Hickman was one of the top walk-ons the program has seen in years and was eventually named co-captain along with Jason Thompson.
Freshman Emerson Bursis, a 6’5” forward, will also join Noon as a walk-on for the basketball team this year. Bursis is a freshman from Scotrun, Pa., and attended Pocono Mountain East High School. Dempsey got a chance to know Bursis as a person and a player. Dempsey also knew his high school coach, who praised Bursis as a player who has good energy and is a hard worker. It was all the qualities that Dempsey was looking for in a walk-on player.
Walk-on players may not get the glory of scoring all the points, but being part of a team and contributing in any way possible is a rewarding experience. Noon understands the opportunity he has been given and is excited.
“The fact that the coach accepted me on the team as much as the players did was a real humbling experience, and I’m looking forward to it.”
“My ultimate goal in the end is to coach college basketball at the D1 level, so this is a great stepping stone and a great way to get involved.”
For Noon, being a D1 athlete seemed far from his reach, but because he kept his head up and worked hard, he is one step closer to attaining his goal.