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Torrington’s Andre French Finds His Game and Inner Peace at Elms College..By John Torsiello.
This past basketball season was a sweet one for Torrington’s Andre French.
After suffering a season-ending injury before his sophomore campaign at Elms College and going through what he described was a disappointing end to his second full season last year, the former THS Raider star had a great junior season, averaging 18.4 points 3.6 steals, 2 assists and 2.3 rebounds a game.
French, a shooting guard, was named First Team All-New England Collegiate Conference for the second time (he made the team his sophomore season as well) during his career at Elms after leading the Blazers to a 14-2 record in Conference play in 2012-13. He averaged 17.7 points per game during Elms' Conference slate and recorded 60 of his 102 steals against NECC opponents--a mark that ranks him second in the nation in the category. French also reached the 1,000-point milestone for his career, with the achievement coming in a 102-70 victory over Wheelock College on Feb. 11 in Boston. He helped the Blazers capture their fourth NECC crown in five years and eighth overall Conference championship in the last nine years, and has now scored 1,088 career points.
French kicked his college career off by averaging 5.7 points as a freshman and scoring 18 points against Becker College in the NECC championship game. He was voted the tourney’s Most Valuable Player for his efforts. But his career at Elms College, located in Chicopee, Ma., has been anything but a smooth ride. He broke a finger his freshman year, broke one foot during the Conference title game and then the other foot prior to the start of his sophomore season and had to be redshirted. By his own admission, French had some growing up to do as well.
“My career at Elms has been quite the journey. Starting with my first year I never really seemed to be into it. I felt as though I was too talented to be playing at this level and I kind of let that get to my head. I would say I had an okay freshman year but I feel as though I just didn’t take it seriously at all.”
But a change was coming.
“As I got older I started to take things a bit more seriously. I started focusing more, realizing that I could fulfill my basketball dreams at Elms.”
French did come back focused for his sophomore year but in the team’s first scrimmage of the season he broke his foot against WPI.
“I was pretty devastated at that point,” French said of the injury. “With the support of my family and friends I was anxious for a speedy recovery. I could have come back with about two regular season games left but decided to wait it out and save the year of eligibility.”
His second full season with the Blazers was the 2011-2012 campaign (his third year at Elms). He had a successful campaign but felt as though he didn’t perform anywhere near where he knew he was capable of, despite averaging 15.4 points, 3.1 steals, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists a game.
“We ended up losing in the conference championship and later losing in the ECAC tournament. I took a lot of the blame. I thought a lot about it throughout the summer and came back feeling as though I owed all of our supporters and I was going to do whatever it took to get us to the NCAA tournament and potentially get a championship.”
This year, Elms did win the Conference title and advanced to the NCAA tournament.
“We were all psyched up but we came up short against a solid 23rd-ranked SUNY Cortland team in the first round of the tournament. This was a great experience for us as a team and Elms as a community.”
French, who flew to Miami, Fl. to visit his girlfriend, Julie Giampaolo of Torrington (who is playing volleyball for the University of Miami) after the season, is finally in a good place with his college hoops career.
“I am pleased with the season because we had a special bond as teammates on and off the court. We were ranked third in pre-season the NECC and we ended up with an 18-10 record overall, 14-2 in the Conference. We won our eighth Conference championship in nine years and made an NCAA appearance. I wish we could have made it further in the NCAA tournament but it was a great experience and I’m glad I experienced it with the guys I did.”
French, who was a member of Torrington High’s state championship team his sophomore year, wound up at Elms College somewhat serendipitously. He planned on going to a prep school to get his grades up and polish his game for the Division I level.
“The Division I dream didn’t quite work out. Coach Ed Silva contacted me after playing in a senior all-star game at New Britain High School, and around September of 2009 I contacted Coach Silva and told him I needed somewhere to plant my feet. I was given that opportunity and at the time Elms seemed like the perfect spot to become better on and off the court.”
Even at the Division III level, college basketball is a lot different than high school ball.
“College ball is different than high school ball in a number of ways, the physical aspect, speed, tempo, the IQ level needed. College ball for me is a lot more than just going out there playing your butt off on both ends of the court and just playing ball. There are a lot less foul calls on the college level, more freedom. I always played the point guard position in high school but when I got to Elms I was moved to the shooting guard spot because I had a knack for scoring.”
French believes his strengths as a basketball player are his poise, scoring/playmaking ability, strength, speed, athletic ability, his “motor,” IQ and “heart.” He’s working on “becoming more athletic and getting better in all aspects of my game.”
He talked fondly about his days at THS.
“My best memories of high school ball are just spending time with my teammates and coaches. Winning a state championship my sophomore year was one of my most memorable moments. I enjoyed that with my teammates and coaches.”
He keeps in touch with most of his teammates from Torrington High school
“Throughout high school you develop a brotherhood with most of your guys. You can only hope that your relationships last, seeing as how we don’t all go to the same college when we graduate. Whenever we do see each other at pickup games, when we’re out, or even just hanging out, we share the same bonds we did in high school.”
The Sociology major hopes to get into a graduate program and is looking forward to playing one more year of college ball. His minor is Coaching and he wants to get a degree in Education. He carries a GPA of around 3.0.
French said he couldn’t have succeeded in college without the help of family and friends.
“I always thank God, my mom Faith French, my father Barry Morse, my girlfriend Julia and her parents, James and Janet Giampaolo, for all of their support. Honestly, they are what keep me going and I am very thankful for them.”
Andre French is a perfect example of adjusting to your surroundings, making the most of the opportunities presented to you, and finding an inner peace. For the former Raider, it has all come together nicely at Elms College.