Max Staiger ’13 has a pretty big advantage as a basketball player, standing at 6’10”. The tall center/forward said he gets his height from his father, who is just two inches shorter. Staiger’s father, who played basketball both at the college level and professionally in Germany, is responsible for introducing his son to the game. Of course, it may have been an obvious decision when his son already stood at 5’6” in the fourth grade.
Still, Staiger’s height did not guarantee his success in college.
“The college game [is] 10 times faster than high school,” Staiger said.
The difference led him to take a post-graduate year at the Peddie School before beginning his Bowdoin career, where he learned what he called some “key lessons” for dealing with the speed and athleticism at the college level. From there, he says, it was all about finding his role on the court.
“Every player wants a supporting role on the team,” Staiger said. “With basketball and other team sport everyone contributes to a win, and everyone contributes to a loss, from person one to [person] fourteen.”
This mindset has made Staiger a favorite in the locker room and a valuable member of the team, beyond his scoring achievements.
“He enjoys people,” Head Coach Tim Gilbride said. “He has genuine concern for each and every one of his teammates. It creates an enjoyable atmosphere.”
Staiger said he has tried to bond with every player on the team since his sophomore year.
“He’s very skillful,” Gilbride added about Staiger’s play. “He’s good at seeing the whole picture and understanding what the offense should be doing.”
Staiger’s skills were on display last weekend in his final regular season games as a Polar Bear, scoring a career-high 23 points on Friday against Wesleyan and then a team-high 18 points against Connecticut College the next day. Those victories helped Bowdoin retain its fifth seed for the NESCAC tournament, guaranteeing them an easier opponent in the first rounds.
But Staiger has always been good at seeing the whole picture, including the one beyond basketball.
“My parents always stressed that academics go first; basketball was a reward for doing well,” he said. “The NESCAC schools fit that well. My visit here with Will Hanley ’12 and Ryan O’Connell ’12 showed me what a great community there is here. People aren’t tied down to one activity—athletics doesn’t dominate.”
Staiger is one of the most visible figures on campus, having served as president of Ladd House, head of the Inter-House Council, and as an active member of the Alcohol Team and the Athletic Council. He is also a head RA.
“Overall, it’s very rewarding to be in a position to lead the team, both in scoring and as a mentor,” Staiger said. “But it still comes down to the fact that anyone on the team can be the leading scorer, so it’s particularly rewarding to be in that other leadership position.”
Leadership is Staiger’s way of giving back to a team that he said means so much to him. Staiger said he has aspired to become someone the team can rely on, as he has relied on them. One of the ways he does so is by taking an interest in the team’s younger members.
“He’s always talking to them, really about anything,” fellow captain Nick Lenker ’13 said. “He’s helping them apply to the College Houses, writing recommendations. He’s involved in everything on campus. He knows everyone and everything.”
“I’ve found a family with the basketball team,” Staiger said. “We’ll probably stay a close group for as long as we know each other. That I’ve improved over the years, and people can attest to that, is only because I’ve had 12 to 14 guys supporting me. This is more of a team of the week than an athlete of the week.”
Staiger will need his team if they hope to notch a victory against the fourth seeded Tufts, the only team he has not defeated in his time at Bowdoin.
“Wow,” Lenker said on hearing that. “Well, if he hasn’t beaten them then that means I haven’t either.”
He paused for a moment, saying “No he’s probably right. He would be the one to remember those little details.”
The sports editor of the Orient chooses the Athlete of the Week based on exemplary performance.