Coming off the bench wasn’t something Mark Sears was used to. Before arriving at Ohio University last season, he was always “the guy” on every basketball team he’d played for.
As a freshman at Ohio, though, he had to earn his spot. It was eating at him.
“That really hurt me deep inside because as a player, you just want to get out and play and do anything you can to benefit the team,” Sears said recently on the “SchuZ” podcast.
He proved to be up for the challenge, making the Mid-America Conference All-Freshman team and helping lead the Bobcats to a berth in the NCAA Tournament, and then an upset win over fourth-seeded Virginia in the first round.
Now, as a sophomore, he’s back to being “the guy.” Though he played in 23 games as a freshman, he made just five starts. As a sophomore, he’s started every game. He’s Ohio’s leading scorer at 19.4 points per game, which ranks second in the MAC. He’s also the team leader in assists at 4.3 per game, which ranks fourth in the conference.
And he’s hoping to lead Ohio back to another NCAA Tournament appearance. He credits his experience last season as a reason why he grew as a player but, more importantly, in his faith in God.
“My faith in God really just elevated because nobody else knew how I was feeling but God,” Sears said on the podcast. “So I just feel like being able to talk to Him, just tell Him how I was feeling, just read the Word, that really helped my faith.”
One of Sears’ favorite Bible verses in Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” He said he prays with his family over the phone before every game.
“I grew up in church. My mom and dad, they were really on me with that at an early age,” he said on the “SchuZ” podcast. “I feel like that was one of the best things that could’ve ever happened in my life, just to know that I’m not alone and I can always talk to God whenever I want to.”
Ohio lost its final three games of the regular season and enters the MAC Tournament as the No. 3 seed with a 23-8 record. The Bobcats will likely have to win the MAC Tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. They open up against Ball State on Thursday.
Regardless of what happens this season, Sears said he hopes people see the light of Jesus through him.
“Even when I have the good games, I just praise Him. I just thank Him,” he said on the podcast. “I just give Him all the honor and the glory. Even on the bad games, I just thank Him for allowing me to be in the position that I am today. There’s never a day that I go without thanking Him.”
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