Cartwright shakes past, sparks Bengals’ season


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Buffalo State’s season was highlighed by an upset over nationally ranked Ithaca.

Anthony Reyes, Associate Sports Editor

It was March, 2011. The Buffalo State men’s basketball team had just won the SUNYAC championship and they were headed to the NCAA playoffs. A freshman guard Chris Cartwright, who was named Coles Classic MVP, Worcester State All-Tournament Team and All-SUNYAC First Team, had made an impressive contribution in his first year on the team.

Everything seemed to be going right for the Bengals, but for Cartwright, everything would begin to go wrong.

The Bengals headed to the NCAA tournament with hopes of winning a national championship. Cartwright had hopes for the return of a normal life. His mother was extremely sick, his best friend had recently committed suicide, and after their elimination from the NCAA playoffs, he returned home to find that his apartment had been robbed of all of his belongings.

It was at that point that he decided that Buffalo was no longer the place for him. He decided to head home to Binghamton.

Cartwright left Buffalo State completely, he was no longer playing basketball and he was also no longer taking any classes. He was now home in Binghamton, working to help pay the bills and also trying to take care of his ailing mother who was battling high blood pressure, diabetes and Crohn’s disease.

Cartwright wouldn’t return to Buffalo State until three years later in the spring of 2014, when his mother finally began to regain her health.

Other than going home, there was one other thing that helped him get through the tough time – basketball.

“It’s my sanctuary,” Cartwright said. “It’s a place where you don’t think about anything but putting the ball in the basket. You can block out all the distractions, no matter what’s going on, it’s nice to have a getaway.”

It was during his time playing basketball that he realized he couldn’t stay away from Buffalo forever. He needed to get back to school and he wanted to play another year of basketball.

When Cartwright returned to Buffalo State in the spring of 2014, he had to prove himself to the college again. They believed that he just left the school just to leave, he had to provide documentation of everything he had gone through, and he also had to perform well in the classroom. He worked hard throughout the spring and he eventually finished the fall semester with a 4.0 GPA.

He also rejoined the basketball team in the fall. Because of all the paperwork he had to go through, he missed the first five games of the year. Buffalo State would go 1-4 in those five games. After he joined the team, they went 14-6 and claimed the fifth seed in the SUNYAC playoffs.

“He definitely made a difference when he joined us kind of midway,” head coach Fajri Ansari said. “Not so much points or statistics overall. I expected him to be an All-Conference first team player, but more than that, I think he brought a competitive edge that I think was helpful to the team.

“I don’t want to say it was him all by himself that helped the turnaround, but obviously he was a big help, and I think he motivated some of our other players to step up. He’s been there before, he has the experience.”

Fellow senior forward Chris Thompson also thought Cartwright had a positive effect on the team.

“His spark definitely helped us with that six or seven-game winning streak that we had to get our record back above .500,” Thompson said. “It was definitely something that we needed.”

After the season turnaround, the Bengals headed to Brockport to take on the Golden Eagles in the SUNYAC quarterfinals. It was a back-and-forth game that eventually ended in a Buffalo State loss.

“The players played hard,” Ansari said. “It was our third game in five days, and I think everyone had the intentions of winning the SUNYAC Championship. I think we learned it requires a little more execution, more than just a desire or wanting or hoping, we have to execute to move on to the championship.

“We had our chances, but we missed some easy shots, missed 10 free throws, and Brockport shot exceptionally well during that game, and that was the difference.”

Although it was Cartwright’s senior season, he still has athletic eligibility because he left for three years. He reflected on what the experience as a whole has done for him as an athlete.

“It made me love the game more,” Cartwright said. “It made me realize that basketball wasn’t just about basketball; it brings a different aspect to my life that I wasn’t really aware of until I realized that I was in the dark and I needed to get out of it, so, picking up that basketball again just made everything easy.”

Basketball was a way for Cartwright to escape his problems and clear his head during a situation that was truly horrible. Through it all, he’s remained optimistic.

“I believe that everything happens for a reason,” Cartwright said. “At the time of the struggle a lot of people don’t believe that and they’ll be like ‘oh why is this happening, this is ridiculous,’ and it’s hard to remain positive and put the pieces together to move forward and progress from it. But, I mean, I’m just thankful, at the time I wasn’t.

“I’m thankful that my mom still is here, I’m thankful that I wasn’t home during that robbery, and I think the three years off, they happened for a reason. I was able to help a team that wasn’t really sure where they were going, and they didn’t really have an identity, and I kind of think that I brought a nice chemistry to us all and helped us work together to at least make the playoffs.”

Cartwright finished the season as the team’s second leading scorer, the team’s top 3-point shooter and led the SUNYAC in 3-point field goals per game with 2.9. His hard work earned him first team All-SUNYAC honors for the second time in his career. Although he has excelled in basketball, in the fall he’ll be looking for a new challenge, he wants to try a different sport; he wants to play football for Buffalo State.