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As Ohio Basketball has made a name for itself as one of the top mid-major programs in the country, they have been guided by some incredible leadership both on and off the court. After an upset against Virginia in the 2021 NCAA tournament led by now LA Clippers guard Jason Preston, the Bobcats of Ohio have seen their success carry over another year, finishing the season at 23-8 and looking to win the MAC and find themselves again in the NCAA tournament. As they have made moves on the court, Bobcat leaders Ben Vander Plas, Mark Sears, and Jason Carter all credit faith for leading them as they hope to make an impact away from the court as well.

Photo Courtesy of Ohio Athletics
For redshirt senior star forward Ben Vander Plas, the chance to play with Ohio and form the relationships he has with teammates and coaches has been a dream come true. As he has become a fan favorite for the Bobcats, Vander Plas credits his faith as his guiding factor throughout his life.

“My faith plays a huge role in my basketball career. I feel that I am able to apply the things I learn through reading scripture and prayer to my life as a student-athlete. My faith allows me to be a better teammate, leader, be coachable, and serve others. Through my sport, I have been given a platform that allows me to spread God’s word.”

Growing up, faith was always an important part of life for Ben. He says that he has seen his faith continue to take big leaps throughout his days at college, too.

“I am blessed to have the family I have with my mom and dad, brother and sister who are all believers and have helped me along the way in my walk with Jesus. When I got to college I took a big step in my faith and I think this is where it truly became my own.”

While Vander Plas has found loads of success on the court, his journey hasn’t been without its struggles, too. Ben says his faith has helped guide him through the ups and downs and rely on God’s timing regardless of the circumstance.

“Placing my identity in Jesus Christ and knowing that I am more than a basketball player is something that allows me to get through the ups and downs. Along with that, I have been blessed with some great teammates that are believers that have helped push me and helped me grow into the person that I am today.”

Photo Courtesy of Ohio Athletics
Sophomore star guard Mark Sears has found immediate success since arriving on campus at Ohio. After appearing in 23 games his freshman year, Sears has become the Bobcats’ leading scorer this year as he has started every game. As he has quickly become a young leader for the program, he says his faith has helped guide him throughout his time in Ohio. Sears says that he has always had faith in his life and it has helped guide him throughout his journey.

“I grew up in the church and one of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11. Before every game, I pray with my family over the phone.”

As Sears has become one of the most notable names in the conference, he says he just hopes to use his platform for something bigger than himself.

“I want people to know that I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today without God.”

He also says that he wants to live out love every day in his interactions with others both on and off the court. He says that he has learned that through hard work, anything is possible.

“My motto is that faith without works is dead. If you want to have success in life you have to put the work in.”

Exhibiting hard work day in and day out, Sears has become praised for his commitment to the game and his incredible skills on the court.

Photo Courtesy of Ohio Athletics
For forward Jason Carter, the path to Ohio was not quite as clear. After starting his career at Ohio, he transferred to Xavier before making his way back. He says that while it hasn’t been the most simple of journeys, he wouldn’t change a thing. With a faith he holds close to his heart, he says he has been making Jesus more of a priority every day.

“I’m grounded in the fact that God loved all of us so much that he sent his son to die on the cross and pay for our sins and there’s no work or righteousness I can do on my own to achieve salvation. I know any struggle and sin can be overcome by my faith in him and with him, and any blessing is from him.”

Jason says that basketball has given him the perfect outlet to live out his gifts while deflecting the glory to God.

“My faith plays a role in my basketball career by giving me a platform to share the gospel to many different people from different backgrounds. My faith also allows me to play free and care and love others because I know my worth isn’t based on game outcomes or individual performances.”

As Jason looks towards the conference tournament and looking to lead Ohio to another NCAA birth, he says he hopes to use his platform to inspire whoever is watching.

“My hope is that my platform and gifts are used to bless others and point and lead others to Jesus. I hope my gifts and platform allow me to be an outlet where anyone can come with any questions, struggles, or doubts and know I’ll listen and help find answers or understand whatever it is in a biblical and godly way. At the end of the day, my hope is that everyone comes to know and follow Jesus.”

As the Bobcats open their conference tournament against Ball State on Thursday, they will look to lead their team and fan base to another NCAA tournament. As Vander Plas, Sears, and Carter gear up for their remaining time with Ohio and around each other, they hope to continue to use each other and their gifts as a chance to inspire others. No matter the opponent, they hope to showcase hard work and love to others every time they take the court.


Ethan Kruse

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