PAXTON, Mass- At the start of the 2016-2017 academic year, Mike Rapoza stepped on the Anna Maria campus for the first time. A resident of Charlton, Massachsuetts and graduate of Shepard Hill Regional High School, Mike was recruited to play basketball at AMC by head basketball coach Shawn Conrad. The 6'6", 230-pound big man has been in Paxton for two years and has already made a name for himself athletically and academically.
In the classroom, Rapoza is majoring in secondary education and is sporting a 3.9 GPA. Mike is on track to graduate with his undergrad degree in three years. After receiving his undergrad degree, he will pursue his Masters in secondary education. Following his schooling, his plan is to teach high school history and coach basketball, preferably at the high school level.
Although his academic achievements are top notch, on the basketball court is where Mike has made a name for himself. It is hard to miss the 6'6", constructively loud Rapoza on the hard wood. You can often hear him shouting his all-so-common phrase "My Help" on the defensive end of the floor and will quickly change to "My Ball" when defending his man in the post with possession of the rock. He is often coaching his teammates on the floor during play, free throw attempts, time outs, and when he is on the bench, which is not very often. He will also make sure to high five each one of his teammates on the floor when he is at the line shooting free throws. Not only is Mike a great teammate but a great opponent. Before each game he can be seen talking to each official and opponent on the court.
During his freshman year, Mike came on to the scene and made an impact right away. In the 2016-2017 season he started all 26 games for the AMCATS, averaged 35 minutes per game, scored 444 points, pulled down 330 rebounds and blocking 23 shots. From the field he shot 63.1% and from the free throw line, he was 102-of-148, 68.9% for an average of 17.1 points per game. During the season, Mike was named Rookie of the Week five times in the GNAC and at the end of the year, was named the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Rookie of the year.
Mike's freshman season was stellar and his sophomore season would prove to be even better. During the 2017-2018 season Mike played in 26 games, starting 25, missing one start due to senior day in which the five AMCATS seniors started. Though he averaged slightly lower minutes per game, 34.7, his shooting average from the floor went up ever so slightly to 63.2%. His free throw average did, however, drop to 66.3% but he raised his points per game average to 18.8. Rapoza scored 490 points in his sophomore season, 46 better than his freshman campaign. His rebounding also improved by 37 boards to 367 on the season and he blocked 41 shots. What's more, in the 26 game season, Rapoza recorded 22 double-doubles. Mike was named player of the week in the GNAC multiple times and will undoubtedly be rewarded with season conference awards.
Of Rapoza, head coach Shawn Conrad said in an interview with the Boston Herald's Stephen Hewitt, "We knew he would come in and be an impact player right away, but it was probably halfway through his freshman year where we started to really marvel at the fact that you can almost count on a double-double every night from him. That's pretty special."
The biggest story line in Mike's career thus far came towards the end of the 2017-2018 season when he tied the NCAA Division III record for most consecutive shots made in a game (18) and then broke the NCAA Division III record for most consecutive shots made over any period (24), which brought him some much deserved local and national publicity. The streak started on February 9th 2018 when he made his final three baskets in a game against Rivier University. He was eight-for-10 shooting in the game. Four days later, on February 13th against Mount Ida College, with a playoff berth on the line, Mike did something that only two other players in Division III history had ever done before by making all of his 18 shots in the game, scoring 42 points and helping his team in to the Conference playoffs. The most impressive part of the streak is that none of the shots were from outside the paint, he has only taken three three-point shots in his career. Mike said of the performance, "I didn't realize how big it was. I didn't know I hadn't missed a shot until I saw the stat sheet. I had no idea what was happening until the next day."
Following the game on Tuesday night one sports columnist from the Boston Globe, Bob Ryan caught wind of the 18-for-18, 42 point, 19 rebound performance and during an appearance on ESPN's Around the Horn, he gave a shout out to Mike saying, "Anna Maria College beat Mount Ida College 102-84 in a DIII game last night. That's not the big story, center Mike Rapoza had 42 points and 19 rebounds, that's not the big story. The big story is that Mike Rapoza was 18-for-18 from the floor. Did he take any threes? No, he hasn't take a single three all year. This is the Bob Ryan fantasy. Posting up, kicking butt, making every shot! Way to go Mike Rapoza! You the man!" This started a twitter firestorm with congratulations pouring in and an interview with the Boston Herald's sports columnist Stephen Hewitt. Mike Rapoza had put Anna Maria basketball and athletics on the map.
Mike was 21 for his last 21 over the previous two game, just three away from the All-Time record for consecutive shots made. On February 17th against Emmanuel College, Mike would make history again. Everyone in the gym knew what was at stake and with each shot he took everyone held their collective breath. In the end, Rapoza finished the day five-for-five shooting and was in sole possession of the Division III consecutive shots made record.
"I've been placed in a great system at Anna Maria," Mike said. "Coach does a great job; we have a great team. We play hard. Everyone on the team plays exactly as I do."
In College basketball scoring 1,000 points and grabbing 1,000 rebounds are the benchmarks for great players. After just two seasons in Paxton, Mike has 934 points and 697 rebounds. He will, without a doubt, reach the 1,000-point mark in the first handful of games in his junior season. Only time will tell if he is able to do the same with rebounds.