HAMDEN, Conn. (BVM) — Filled with uncertainty and unknowns, it has been quite the journey for Quinnipiac men’s basketball player Jacob Rigoni. Arriving in the United States as a 19-year-old college student, Rigoni defied the odds as a basketball player at Quinnipiac University.
Before arriving in the United States, Rigoni was living in Australia. And when it came time for Rigoni to commit to a college, he didn’t see his home country as a place where he could maximize his skill set. But he did find one school that could help him as a student and athlete. That school was Quinnipiac University.
“I liked the opportunity to have an education and to play basketball at the same time in America,” Rigoni said. “We didn’t really have a pathway like that in Australia, so I think getting my education and playing basketball at a really high level was something I was really excited to do. That opportunity presented itself at Quinnipiac, so choosing Quinnipiac seemed like a no-brainer.”
However, it’s not as easy as one thinks for a college athlete to leave home, find new relationships with players and coaches you never met before and excel as a player in a brand new situation.
But Rigoni overcame those odds. He immediately established relationships with players and coaches, while also flourishing as a player as early as his freshman season.
“I’m really thankful that I had the opportunity that I did in my freshman year because I’ve heard a lot of stories of Australians that have gone to college, and they struggle with being away from home,” Rigoni said. “They also struggle with gaining relationships with coaches and players, but from day one here at Quinnipiac, I immediately click with the players and coaches on the team.”
Another common obstacle for a college athlete going from one country to another is adjusting to the game style of a sport.
“I played against grown men my last couple of years in Australia, and they all played in similar ways,” Rigoni said. “Coming to America, the biggest difference was probably the athleticism, the speed of the game, and even the length of the players. I think that took some time to adjust to the speed of the game, but I use my strengths in different areas of the game to combat that.”
Rigoni quickly adjusted his style of play as a freshman in 2017. He instantly became a knockdown three-point shooter, which was different from his skillset in Australia for 18 years.
Quinnipiac men’s basketball coach Baker Dunleavy contributed to how Rigoni transformed his game at Quinnipiac.
“In Australia, I often was a player who shot mid-range, and I posted up on guys,” Rigoni said. I also rebounded well in Australia, but when I came to America, coach Dunleavy told me that in order for me to get to the rim and do other things, I had to really develop a consistent three-point shot to make a difference. So that first summer, I really worked on and improved my three-point shooting, which became my offensive identity in my entire time playing at Quinnipiac.”
Making that adjustment helped make Rigoni one of the best three-point shooters in the MAAC the following four seasons. As it currently stands, Rigoni holds the record for the most three-point field goals in Quinnipiac history.
In addition to Coach Dunleavy, another contributor to Rigoni’s success in basketball was his dad. Dunleavy was the one who transformed Rigoni’s game when he arrived in America, but his dad was the first person to inspire him to play basketball in the first place.
“I think my dad was the one who probably inspired me to play; I think I remember my little memories growing up watching his teams play that he coached for,” Rigoni said. “He coached men’s teams in Australia, whether it was semi-pro or juniors from under 12’s or under 18’s. So it was all different kinds of levels, and I really looked up to the guys he coached. I wanted to be there one day, so he was the one who really put me into the game of basketball.”
After playing five years of basketball at Quinnipiac University, Rigoni’s basketball journey was filled with ups and downs. While he didn’t achieve his ultimate goal of winning a championship, he cherishes every moment he had at Quinnipiac.
“I think, for me, the biggest thing was the relationships that I made, the lives I was able to touch, and the people that touched my life that made me a better person overall,” Rigoni said. That’s the biggest thing I’ll cherish and miss most at Quinnipiac. But if you look at the on-court statistics, having the record of most games played was reflective of the time I put into the game and being the best version of myself.”