Ben Badeen acknowledges he had to prove himself to different coaches.

“The first thing a coach looks at is, ‘This guy’s only five feet tall. What is he going to do?’ ” Badeen said.

But Badeen, who grew up in Newport and graduated from Maine Central Institute, has played for four years on the men’s basketball team at Holy Family, a Division II school in Pennsylvania. His current coach, R.C. Kehoe, says he’s as valuable as anyone on the team.

Holy Family is located in Conshohocken, Pa., in the Philadelphia area. Badeen wanted to attend a Catholic school, and he had been to Philadelphia several times to visit his mother’s family. While there’s a lot more to do in Philadelphia than in Newport, there are also a lot more people looking for something to do.

“The traffic is crazy,” Badeen said. “I appreciate driving in Maine better.”

Badeen is listed at 5-foot-0, 125 pounds, and he has had to convince three different coaches that he deserved a spot on the roster. Badeen first earned a spot as a walk-on under coach Alfred Johnson.

“My first year, Coach Johnson brought in probably 12 guys, and I’m the only one remaining,” Badeen said.

Holy Family’s next coach was John O’Connor, who was suspended and then resigned after an incident caught on video in which he shoved a player to the ground, kicked him, and then threw him out of practice. Kehoe began coaching the team this season.

“I feel like it’s been a crazy experience, but a very good experience at the same time,” Badeen said.

As a freshman, Badeen played in four games. He started 14 as a sophomore, when the roster was gutted by academic ineligibility. He played eight games last season, and has seen action in three this winter.

Kehoe had done a lot of research on the team before meeting with Holy Family’s search committee. But he had overlooked Badeen, the last player on the stat sheets, who had played a total of 22 minutes the season before.

As Kehoe describes it, Badeen was just different, and saw things in different ways. Kehoe wasn’t sure what Badeen could offer, but he’s come around.

“My initial thought was, ‘I’m not really sure,’ ” Kehoe said. “Seven months later, he’s as valuable as our leading scorer, or Rickie Crews, who leads the nation in blocked shots.”

Say what? Sure, coaches like kids who play hard and love basketball — “He loves (it) probably more than life itself,” as Kehoe put it — but how can a guy who has played five minutes all season be so valuable?

Kehoe says Badeen not only gives everything he can in practice, but he never slows down or rolls his eyes when he runs through three drills and then has to sit out the next three. Badeen even goes all-out in rebounding drills, even though he doesn’t have the body type to box somebody out.

“There’s not a lot of guys who are selfless in this day and age of college athletes,” Kehoe said.“Whenever somebody gets on a team, the first thing that comes to mind is, ‘How am I going to be at the forefront? How can I play 30 or 40 minutes a game?’

“He never complains. He never takes a day off. (The other players) can see his effort and his passion, and that’s what makes great teams. He is the core of this team being selfless.”

The undersized underdog, focused only on making his team better, it sounds like a movie. In fact, it sounds like one that has already been made — “Rudy,” about Rudy Ruettiger, who played football at Notre Dame. Kehoe has heard that comparison many times, and he thinks it doesn’t hold up.

“Rudy was upset that he wasn’t playing. That’s the part of the story people miss,” Kehoe said. “I’ve never once sensed that Ben thought he should be playing more. He never feels that way. To me, that’s bigger than Rudy.”

Kehoe tells about Badeen frequently playing 1-on-1 against Donnie Carr, who stands 6 foot 3 and averaged 19.7 points per game over four years at LaSalle University. Carr, who was a high school teammate of Kehoe’s, is now 34, but he and Badeen will trash-talk each other, and when Carr backs him down toward the basket, Badeen will elbow Carr in the back.

“It’s the funniest, but the most real, thing you’ve ever seen,” Kehoe said.

Badeen graduates soon, and his main basketball goal at Holy Family would be to go out with a conference championship. Holy Family is 10-10, and 6-6 in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference. Badeen majors in management marketing, and plans to go to graduate school.

“I will go to the end of the earth trying to help Ben do whatever he wants to do,” Kehoe said. “I don’t know that there’s anybody out there who carries himself with that kind of character.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243
[email protected]

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