MONTGOMERY: Quinnipiac gives MHS grad Tarca big surprise

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Montgomery High graduate Greg Tarca is a senior captain for the Quinnipiac University men's basketball team. After spending his entire career as a walk-on

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
For Greg Tarca, every day is game day.
The Montgomery High graduate is a senior captain on the Quinnipiac University men’s basketball team.
But what makes Tarca rather unique is that he is a captain who is a walk-on.
Or rather, Tarca was a walk-on. That all changed last Saturday when he was surprised with a full athletic scholarship that will cover his final semester at the Connecticut college.
“I hadn’t put much thought into it,” Tarca said of ever receiving a scholarship. “It is every walk-ons dream, but you never expect it to come up like that. We did a little Secret Santa as a team and they had rigged it so I went last. After I opened the gift from my teammate, our AD (Greg Amodio) came in and said he had another gift for me. When I opened the gift it was the scholarship papers. The coaches knew about but none of my teammates did.”
The reaction from his teammates showed just how much they appreciate the efforts of their walk-on captain. The players on the team were as excited about the scholarship coming his was as Tarca was.
“It was a great moment to be able to present Greg with a scholarship that he has earned,” Quinnipiac coach Baker Dunleavy said. “He has been an invaluable member of our team, embodying the qualities we look for in a Quinnipiac men’s basketball player.”
Tarca has yet to play in a game this season as the Bobcats have gotten off to a 3-8 start following Monday’s 72-71 loss to Drexel. He’s played in 14 games in his career, including eight last year as a junior. But for Tarca, it has always been more about a love for the sport when it came to basketball.
“I have always had a passion for basketball,” Tarca said. “It was great to be part of a program like the one at Montgomery. When it was time for college I picked a school to be able to enjoy regardless of basketball. I reached out to Coach (Tom) Moore and asked if I could try out. I made the team and it has been a big part of my life.”
Moore was let go after last season and replaced by Dunleavy, a former Villanova assistant. That meant Tarca had to prove himself again as a walk-on. Not only did he retain his spot on the roster, but he was also named a team captain.
“I have always been pretty outspoken and being a senior on a team with a lot of young guys and a new coaching staff, at the end of the day it’s just a title,” said Tarca, whose older brother, Kevin, also played basketball at Quinnipiac. “It is humbling and I am grateful to have a title. But that doesn’t change the way I go about things. I always play hard and work as hard as I can in practice. It’s something I have always tried to do and it is the only way I understand to play the game.”
Tarca was a captain while at Montgomery and made a lasting impression on his former coach, Kris Grundy, who could see there was something special in the way Tarca went about his business.
“He was a kid that played JV for a good portion of his junior year, but he never complained,” Grundy said. “He just kept working and trusting that it would all work out. His hard work made him a captain his senior year, a first team all conference player and now a scholarship Division 1 player.
“In today’s athletic society, how many players would be ‘ok’ playing JV as a junior? He used it as motivation and look where he is now. I could not be any happier or more proud of him.”
Playing for Montgomery laid the foundation for the player Tarca has become. And while he hasn’t had the opportunity to make an impact in games, his presence on the practice court makes a difference for the Bobcats.
“My role doesn’t change with or without (the scholarship),” Tarca said. “Everything stays the same. My job is still to go out and work as hard as I can every day and do what I can to help the team become successful.
“Montgomery is a very fundamentally-driven program. I give credit to Coach Grundy and the staff they have. They have great knowledge of basketball and the fundamentals of basketball. Playing for Montgomery gave me a great understanding of the game.”
The Bobcats will begin their MAAC season on Dec. 28 against Monmouth. The league appears to be wide open and Tarca hopes his team can make a run at a league title as it improves with some young talent.
“We are doing all right,” he said. “We’re very young up and down the lineup. We’re  starting a freshman point guard. We’ve had a lot of close games. We took Colorado to the buzzer. We’ve played some tough teams but we have battled. We’ve had some highs and lows.”
Tarca’s career enjoyed a new high when he went from walk-on to scholarship player. And he did it by impressing a new coaching staff.
“They came in and luckily I have some people who are in the athletic department that vouched for me and I was able to stay in program,” Tarca said.
After this season, Tarca will move on and hopes to get into coaching. He’ll use the lessons he’s learned along the way at Montgomery and Quinnipiac to help on that journey.
“That’s the goal, to get into coaching,” Tarca said. “I hope to become a grad assistant somewhere. I am leaving my options open and hopefully I can get my name out there.
I can’t complain about anything that has happened for me here. I am happy with where I am and has been a great experience.”