Can't get him off the floor

More news about: Gwynedd Mercy
Darnell Artis has started 90 games at GMU and has played 2,882 minutes in his career, scoring 1,129 points.
Gwynedd Mercy athletics photo

It’s a familiar sight in college basketball: Before a game, the captains of each team meet with the referees at midcourt. What’s less familiar is a rookie joining the discussion. But that’s exactly what Darnell Artis did.

Artis became Gwynedd Mercy’s starting point guard in the third game of his freshman season. In the seventh game, head coach John Baron said in a telephone interview, Artis joined the captains’ meeting.

“I felt like I was being vocal a lot to our team and being a leader,” Artis said in a telephone interview, describing what motivated him to attend the pregame talk.

His minutes also influenced his decision.

“I was on the court for long periods of time,” Artis said. “So I wanted the referees to get to know me early before the game.”

He said that he had told a senior captain, Brendan Stanton, of his plan.

“If he would have said, ‘No, don’t do it,’ I wouldn’t have done it,” Artis said.

But Stanton did not mind, nor did any other teammates, Artis said. Artis went to the captains’ circle for the rest of the year.

Artis officially became a captain as a sophomore. Now a senior, he continues to lead Gwynedd Mercy in what could be a championship season. The Griffins are 10-5 overall and 8-0 in Colonial States Athletic Conference play. They are beating conference opponents by 23.8 points per game.

Gwynedd Mercy beat the reigning CSAC champion, Neumann, 102-92 on the road on Dec. 2. Neumann was picked in the preseason coaches’ poll for another first-place finish this year, while Gwynedd Mercy was picked for second place.

At the team’s annual barbecue this past summer, the seniors started a conversation about their final season, Baron said. They went from joking about playing recreationally after college to talking seriously about their goal of winning a conference championship this year.

“We have a senior-laden team,” Baron said. “It was more of those older guys talking about this being the end of their college run, and they want to try and reverse the outcome of the last few years.”Gwynedd Mercy’s last conference title came in the 2008-09 season, and its last NCAA Tournament appearance came in the 2010-11 season. The Griffins have four seniors this year, including Artis.

Artis was the CSAC Rookie of the Year for the 2012-13 season and was named First Team All-CSAC the past two years. On Nov. 24, he scored his 1,000th career point in an 83-58 win at conference foe Marywood.

Artis is scoring a career-high 13.8 points per game this year. He has increased his scoring average each season, from 11.1 points per game as a freshman to 11.8 as a sophomore and 12.1 as a junior. He has led the team in minutes played every year, and he currently averages a team-high 31.9 minutes per game.

“Being on the court so much, that’s what made me initially feel like a leader,” Artis said. “If I’m playing hard for a lot of minutes, then I feel like everyone else is going to play hard.”

On the roster, Artis is listed at 5-9. In reality, he said, he is 5-7. “He’s the smallest guy,” Baron said. “But he’s the most vocal.”

Artis also leads without saying a word. Baron recounted a timeout from a game this season in which Artis helped a player who was dwelling on some poor possessions.

“I saw this player still kind of mumbling to himself and head down, and Darnell just grabbed his arm and kind of squeezed his arm a little bit,” Baron said. “I heard then that player say, ‘I know, I know, I’ve got to be better. Let’s just go out after this timeout and make it better.’”

Since Baron became the head coach in 2002, Gwynedd Mercy has won three conference championships and made four NCAA Tournament appearances. Baron often tells his players about those teams, he said.

“It fires me up when he talks about how tough those teams were and how together they were,” Artis said. “I want him to tell teams in five years how tough our team was and how close we were and how together we were.”

Photographs, plaques, and basketball nets commemorating the championship teams hang on the walls of Baron’s office, Artis said. He has admired them for a long time.

“It’s something I’ve been looking at since freshman year, these nets that Coach has up on his wall,” Artis said. “I want to put one on the wall.”


Sarah Sommer

Sarah Sommer is a freelance journalist in New York City. She began writing for D3hoops.com in March 2015, when she covered the women's NCAA Tournament. She is excited to continue covering Division III basketball as the Atlantic columnist.
2011-2015 columns: See Around the Atlantic/Mid-Atlantic