Tim Folan poised for final run

For Tim Folan ’03, a fiery forward and tri-captain of men’s basketball, senior year has at times seemed like an exercise in frustration. One of the prime offensive threats on a team ranked as high as second in the country during the preseason, Folan had been looking forward to one last run at an NCAA title. But then, it seemed, disaster struck.

“I’ve had a back problem for the last eight years,” Folan said, “but this year, the severity was the worst.”

Hampered by the incessant pain, Folan opted to sit out the team’s preseason, hoping that his back would mend enough to make him a force once more in the NESCAC. Finally, during the second week of November, doctors cleared Folan to play. The joy, however, was not meant to last.

“Ten minutes into practice, I felt a pop in my back,” Folan said.

The damage was enough to force Folan out of the lineup and into rehab. Despite the loss of its sharpshooter, the team cleaved through its early competition while Folan, though proud of his team’s success, was hurting on the inside.

“When you’re injured, the toughest part is sitting there watching,” he said.

For five long games, Folan watched from the bench, dedicating himself to recovery in the meantime. Sooner than expected, the captain was ready to jump back into the fray. According to Folan, the time off didn’t have much of an effect on his mindset, nor was his first game back a particularly moving experience.

“I’ve been playing for so long, it felt just like opening night for me,” he said. “Once you’re out on the floor for 30 seconds, you forget about the injury and just play.”

Folan has been battling injuries his entire college career. In his first year, he “ripped up his ankle.” Sophomore year, he partially tore his MCL. Dealing with injuries has been a major adjustment for Folan. Before college, he’d “never been injured before in [his] life.”

Or at least since he started to play basketball seriously in his high school sophomore year. A native of Kensington, Md., Folan attended Gonzaga Prep, a Jesuit high school in Washington, D.C. One of his classmates there was fellow Eph star Joe Reardon ’04, the quarterback of the football team. (Another alum of note – Drew Thompson ’05, this paper’s news editor.)

His freshman year at Gonzaga, Folan measured a diminutive 5’6″, way too small to play on the school’s spectacular basketball team, which often broke into the national high school top-25. A growth spurt of six inches the summer after frosh year, combined with a sweet shooting stroke, helped him make the team the next season.

On the Gonzaga team, Folan said he was “never the main threat.” Several of his former teammates now play for Div. I schools. Folan’s talent, however, caught the attention of several Div. III and Ivy League schools, including, naturally, Williams. Tempted by Yale and Bucknell, Folan finally decided on Williams because of its winning tradition.

“I came to Williams because I wanted to win,” he said.

As a first-year, Folan lionized team leaders like Jim Sheehy ’00, a “great leader and great player” who “played hard for 40 minutes,” and Sean Keenan ’00, a “phenomenal person.” While he showed enormous potential as a shooter, he was out of his league on the other end of the floor.

“I was a nightmare defensively,” Folan said. “I had been brought in to score.”

Over the past four years, though, Folan has committed himself to becoming a better defensive player. In the process, he has become one of the team’s natural leaders. This year, along with Drew DeMuth ’03 and Mike Crotty ’04, Folan is one of the team’s tri-captains. Folan hopes he can follow in the footsteps of the leaders he admired so much as a first-year.

“The greatest compliment I can give someone is to say they’re a great leader,” he said.

Folan defines a great leader as “someone who people can look up to as a player, but more importantly, someone who gives a part of themselves to be something bigger.” Folan has fit that role well. He understands, however, that championships are what really count. The moments he perceives as the highlights of his career – an ECAC championship his sophomore year, a return to the NCAA tournament last year – were all about team victory. This year, the Ephs have the talent to go all the way.

“I want to be remembered for winning a national title,” Folan said.

Folan would love to follow the career trajectory of one of his heroes, Juan Dixon, another Maryland native who fought through great adversity to win a national title his senior year.

“He was a guy who was not highly recruited, but he embodied what college athletics is all about,” Folan said.

But more than anyone else, more than Dixon even, Folan reveres the Williams athletes of the past, the Ephs who built the winning tradition that Folan and company continue. “On any field or court of Williams, we’re playing for guys in uniform before and in the future,” he said. “Guys have worked [as hard as we’re working] if not harder. If you don’t match that work ethic, you’re cheating yourself and your school.”

Folan, one of the fiercest of Williams partisans, is soon set to join the ranks of the “guys in uniform before.” Time is running out on his Williams career, but do not expect Folan to go quietly into that dark night.

“When you’re a freshman, you feel like you have so much time,” he said. “When you come to this year, staring at the end of your career, you try to make that end as perfect as possible. One missed shot, one missed rebound and it’s over. You focus on every little thing.”

Folan’s focus is overwhelming as the Ephs seek to dominate the postseason one final time.