NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NCAA tournament has made its way to New York. Wisconsin, Florida, Baylor, and South Carolina will play for a spot in the Final Four.
But as CBS2’s Steve Overmyer reported, a national championship has already been won by a New York team.
The story of Berkeley College goes deeper than just victories — this journey’s end is more significant because of where they started.
“The difference in my life is amazing,” Jeff Mejia said.
Mejia recently documented a day in the life of the Berkeley Knights, a team of men who have overcome hardships.
Unlike a typical college experience, Berkeley’s athletes commute after school and work. Since the school doesn’t have a gym, they have to rent a court from another college.
Mejia is the team captain, he also spent a year living in a homeless shelter.
“That was a tough experience, but that showed me perseverance and moving forward and knowing that situations can always get better,” he said.
“All of them have faced adversity all their lives. Having that kind of team who’s had that kind of adversity makes the winning easier because you’re facing adversity in every game. They don’t have fathers in the family, the mothers are working, some of them have kids of their own. It’s very difficult to balance all of these things,” coach Chris Christiansen said.
If there is a basketball bouncing somewhere in the five boros Christiansen is there to find talent, help steer them out of bad situations, and teach them to survive.
“I go to some parks that maybe no one else will go to,” he said, “I’m talking about parks where it’s almost, I don’t belong there.”
His players have found a place where they belong and win. The Knights just completed a perfect season — going 29-0 and winning their third straight USCAA Division 2 National Championship.
“Everybody has their own specific story. That’s what we use to motivate us, all the adversity and sacrifice we go through we combine it and put it on the court. That’s why I think we’re so successful,” Mejia said.
They set their goals, achieved them, and learned that some success stretches beyond the court.
Things have been looking good for Mejia. He had been working at a New York business, but they were so impressed with his work ethic that they ended the internship early and hired him full time.