If you walk around Seton Hall’s campus on a men’s basketball off day, odds are that you will see Myles Cale and Sandro Mamukelashvili together.
The duo, both now juniors receiving significant playing time under Kevin Willard, came into school together and forged a bond that extends on and off the court. Cale, from Middletown, Delaware, and Mamukelashvili, from Tbilisi, Georgia, each come from dynamically different backgrounds, but they have made their way to South Orange together and spend nearly every minute of the day with one another, both on and off the court.
The connection that Cale and Mamukelashvili share is certainly evident on the court. The two each started the first two games of the season together this year, just like many times last year, and the two often look for one another on the floor. Team success is often linked to personal chemistry, and Cale and Mamukelashvili have no shortage of that.
“It came naturally,” Cale said. “We came in together, had classes together. We’re best friends off the court. On the court it’s the same way – I look for him and he looks for me.”
Looking for and after one another is Cale and Mamukelashvili’s modus operandi. With any team, especially in the world of Division I basketball, it is important to help one another and pick them up, and those are qualities that Cale and Mamukelashvili see in one another off the court.
“I feel like off the court we just always hang out,” Mamukelashvili said. “There hasn’t been a day that I didn’t go to his room and we watch something or we talk about something.”
Basketball is always a hot topic, especially when the team is ranked No. 12 in the country. Fortnite and trips to the mall are also on the agenda. However, things always pop up for college students, and it is important to have a backboard for other common issues.
“You have to have somebody that you can always go and talk to,” Mamukelashvili said. “I feel like we just really open up and that’s what makes us different. We don’t hold nothing from each other. Whenever I have problems with my family or if it’s something else going on with school, I’m gonna go to him and he can come to me and we can talk about it. It’s so important to have somebody like that so you don’t have to carry your problems.”
These lessons learned over the course of the two years for the two extend beyond their personal lives, however. With freshman Tyrese Samuel coming in, and rising sophomores Anthony Nelson and Jared Rhoden still learning how to navigate opponents in high-level play, Cale and Mamukelashvili are hoping to teach the next generation of Pirates what they have learned from players like Michael Nzei and Myles Powell.
“It feels amazing [being a veteran player],” Mamukelashvili said. “Coming into school you look forward to this kind of moment. You won’t be the one who is learning something, you’ll be the one who is teaching something to others. It feels amazing all these young guys, we can tell them our experiences.”
“It feels good,” Cale added. “You know what you’re doing on the court. You got a lot of experience, you know what you’re doing. [The younger guys] look up to you to ask what you’re doing and you know the answers, so it’s good. I’m feeling real confident in there and in my teammates.”
The teammates were also able to bond and learn from each other on a trip to Italy over the summer, in which they played two games and toured the country. Mamukelashvili played and lived in Italy in the early stages of his career, so the trip was especially special to him in terms of going back to the country and showing Cale and the other members of the team the culture.
“For me it was amazing because I played in Italy,” Mamukelashvili said. “All of my Italian friends showed up, my coaches, my family members. It was an unbelievable experience going there. I feel like most of the guys, it was their first time going to Europe. You hear a lot about the States but you never hear much about Europe in the States. I wanted to show them how cool it is, how different of a culture it is, and I feel like they learned a lot.”
The trip served as a buffer over the summer and before the season began to get the team ready in game shape while seeing a new part of the world. Spending every minute of the trip together in a foreign land will certainly build team chemistry as well.
“To be honest, I feel like every team should have this. We saw each other every day,” Mamukelashvili said. We did everything together. Nobody spoke English but us so we always spoke together. Went to the pool together, the sauna together. This bonding stuff and exploring new stuff together is so much cooler.”
“Being together makes you closer,” Cale reciprocated. “That whole trip made us closer as a team. We were already close enough, like last year, we went through a lot of stuff and we basically have the same team. But, that trip definitely made us closer.”
Although the basketball on the trip went well, resulting in 84-53 and 108-49 wins, Cale and Mamukelashvili did not agree on all parts of the trip.
“They were complaining about the food, which I don’t understand,” Mamukelashvili quipped. “How can you complain about Italian food? It’s the best in the world. That’s an American thing, you know?”
“It felt like the food was all the same to me,” Cale said.
The food disagreement, albeit lighthearted, just scratches the surface about how opposites attract for Cale and Mamukelashvili. Aside from cultural differences, the two also differ in personality, as Mamukelashvili dubbed Cale the “chill” one of the group, whereas he tends to talk his partner’s ear off.
Mamukelashvili was also adamant about Cale’s positivity despite anything that goes wrong. When it comes to basketball and the mood swings of wins and losses, that becomes ever important.
“I feel like [Cale] is so positive,” Mamukelashvili said. “Whatever happens — let’s say Turrell exploded, he’s positive.”
At the end of the day, it is all positive energy and smiles for the two when around each other.
“You always need a partner in crime,” Cale said. “It’s always good to look at someone. You always need somebody. Even all these guys – we hang out with Jared [Rohden], Shavar [Reynolds]. Those are our guys. It’s always good.”
Kevin Kopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @KevinKopfHWH.