Bruin Vision is a new column from the Vision’s sports section co-editors Julieann Challacombe and Ian Kayanja. Featuring analysis and opinions from a variety of student writers, Bruin Vision will be a regular series that breaks down the best of Belmont sports.
Junior center Nick Muszynski holds the Belmont record for most points scored in a player’s first two seasons — and the road to nearly 1,000 points was chock-full of outstanding performances and jaw-dropping moments.
From his debut game to the OVC Championship and everything in-between, Muszynski has been a beacon of consistency for the Bruins.
Below is a countdown of the top moments on his journey to 975 points, along with his thoughts at each stop on the way.
(5.) The Moose is loose: Debut game against Illinois State
After 19 long months of practice as a redshirt freshman, Muszynski was finally able to debut his talents in the Bruins’ first matchup of the 2018-2019 season against Illinois State.
He was one of five starters that finished in double figures, ending his first career game with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Muszynski: I remember being super, super excited. At that point in my life, I was as excited as I had ever been for a game leading up to tip-off. I hadn’t played in a real game for about 19 months because of my redshirt year, and I was just so ready to get out there and compete with the guys. The fact I was starting alongside Grayson and Caleb, my roommates and fellow redshirts, was also super special.
(4.) Did someone say 30 points and counting?: Nick’s career-high
Muszynski let the college basketball world know exactly what he was bringing to the table early in the 2019-2020 season. Although the Bruins lost to Eastern Washington, Muszynski went off for a game and career high of 30 points along with four blocks. He exploded in the second half for 19 of his 30 points, making his performance notable.
Muszynski: I was just really aggressive, confident, and we were playing somewhat
desperate. I had struggled in the previous couple of games scoring the ball, and
we were behind against a really good team in a tough environment on the West
Coast. I just was trying to do everything to help our team win the game, and even
though we lost, I think it inspired a lot of confidence in me and our team grew a lot
during that trip.
(3.) Freshman year award call
Freshman year for Muszynski came with adversity, but was also rewarding. Throughout the season, he played on a Belmont team that featured NBA draftee Dylan Windler and sharpshooter Kevin McClain.
Individually, Muszynski had an outstanding season as the big man for the Bruins that brought him national recognition. After earning multiple conference awards and leading the nation in a few statistical areas, he became the second Bruin ever to receive national freshman All-American honors.
Muszynski: It was amazing. I’ve always felt those types of awards are partially team
awards, because rarely do players get named high accolades on bad teams. Showing that I was able to have a significant impact on a team that I not only loved so much, but also clearly had a lot of success, was very rewarding and motivating.
(2.) Let the good times roll: OVC Championship Game
The 2020 Ohio Valley Conference Championship game ended in a Belmont victory. The game was an instant classic that came down to the very last play, and one of the game’s brightest stars was Muszynski who finished with 25 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
Muszynski: That night was very emotional for me, mostly because of the way the conference tournament played out for both me and the team the previous year. Watching our guys lose to a very talented Murray State team in front of a ruthless Racer-dominant crowd while I was on crutches was an all-time low for me. Being able to come back and perform the way I did, along with help lead us to a hard-fought victory against a really good team was one of the best moments of my life.
Being named Most Valuable Player usually means you are on the winning side of a championship game, and Muszynski was the first Bruin to take home this award in five seasons.
But the tournament wasn’t all smooth sailing. The night before the championship game — in the semifinals — it wasn’t pretty.
Muszynski: I struggled to find my groove the whole night, and I think I was really overthinking things. The way the semifinals went the previous year — I got my serious ankle injury, and we just rode Dylan Windler from the tip — I was super eager to prove so much and make such an impact. I think I just tried to do too hard. When the championship game came around, I just settled down, played my game, and competed as hard as possible for my teammates in hopes of winning a championship.
The championship trophy and the MVP award are a duo that rarely separate. And to win both means you are at the top of the mountain.
In basketball, that’s a good place to be.
After a Belmont win over Murray State, they had climbed the OVC mountaintop. Achieving an automatic bid in a season, in which many had already written them off, said Muszynski.
Muszynski: Winning the MVP was such an honor because we were such a deep and balanced team. We had so many integral parts to that squad, and everyone brought so many unique talents and abilities to the table. I was the happiest person on earth that night — along with the other twenty or so people in that locker room — just climbing that mountain top. we always believed in one another and just stayed the course, and being able to climb that season’s mountain with as much change and adversity we faced was absolute euphoria.
Muszynski’s personal top moment
Muszynski set out to play good basketball, not necessarily to break records.
He often shows homage to his teammates and coaches who have helped him along the way, long before he ever gives himself credit.
So to Muszynski, the records and points are more a byproduct of good basketball than anything else. To him, the most memorable moment comes from a team achievement, beating Temple in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Muszynski: Being able to play on my foot in the condition it was in, being able to compete with my brothers in such an amazing environment, and winning the game to make a statement, that proved Belmont is a national program was so incredible. Being able to make the run we did with the guys we were with, especially during what ended up being Coach Byrd’s final season was so meaningful, motivating and impactful for me as a player and person.
If the next two seasons are anything like the previous two, it should be an exciting run for Belmont.
This article written by Ian Kayanja and Julieann Challacombe.