Commencement is a time of reflection and new beginnings. As the College prepares to send the Class of 2018 across the Cistern Yard May 11-12, The College Today will share a sampling of how some of our graduating seniors spent their time at CofC, and what comes next.

TD Arena is empty, which is fitting as Joe Chealey takes a courtside seat to talk about his post-graduation plans. The business administration major spent the bulk of his time at CofC here in the arena when no one was in the stands.

“It’s a special place,” he says, as he takes a good look around. “I spent a lot of hours in the gym by myself just practicing, just trying to get ready for the moment when the stands are filled. I’m going to miss this place, to say the least.”

Chealey is a pretty upbeat guy, so you wouldn’t think he would need a reminder to be more so, but on his wrist is a band with the words “Stay Positive.” One of the students at Northwoods Middle School in North Charleston gave it to him when he went to speak to them the day before about leadership, perseverance and hard work.

Joe Chealey takes a shot in the CAA championship game against Northeastern. (Photos by Mike Ledford)

If anybody knows about perseverance and hard work, it’s Chealey. During his time at the College, the 6’4” guard from Orlando rose above some challenging situations – a coaching change in 2014 after his freshman year and an Achilles tendon injury that caused him to miss the entire 2015-16 season – to lead the Men’s Basketball Team to its first CAA regular-season title, its first CAA Championship title and the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 19 years.

“It’s a little surreal it’s over,” he says. “It’s been a long journey, but I appreciate all the moments. I don’t have any regrets. I left it all out there. My goal since I got into college was to win a conference championship and play in the NCAA Tournament. To do it my last year, I don’t think you could have scripted a better ending. I just wish I could have been healthier to have given a little more.”

Chealey injured his ankle in the overtime win against Northeastern in the finals of the CAA Championship at the North Charleston Coliseum. The team had been down by as much as 17 points in the second half, but with 10 seconds on the clock, Chealey drove the lane and tied the score at 65 for one of the greatest comebacks in school history.

“That was the most fun I’ve had playing basketball,” he says. “I got really caught up in the moment and wasn’t even aware we were down by so much. We couldn’t have done it without the crowd. They were a tremendous help. We used it and guys stepped up and made big plays. That’s what college basketball is all about.”

RELATED: Relive the Cougars’ CAA championship win through the eyes of the Men’s Basketball seniors.

But his best on-court memory during his five years at CofC came two weeks earlier when confetti rained down on the team after they clinched a share of the regular-season championship with a win over Elon.

Joe Chealey is recognized during Senior Night in February 2018.

“It was Senior Night, the last home game, so it was a pretty special moment,” he says.

Another special moment also came in TD Arena but it had nothing to do with basketball. It came during last year’s graduation when he saw classmates he started with, like former teammate Terrance O’Donohue ’17, receive their diplomas. (Rain forced the traditionally outdoor ceremony indoors.)

Now Chealey is about to receive his (hopefully in Cistern Yard). He’s really glad he chose the College to play ball and earn his degree. In addition to interning at the law office of David Aylor ’02, where he got to see how the law works (he says it’s a “lot of paperwork”), Chealey’s academic experience included a senior capstone case presentation and business simulation for his business policy class.

“It’s on Disney, which is kind of cool being from Orlando,” he says. “It was all encompassing – marketing, accounting, a little bit of everything. I enjoy all aspects of business.”

He plans on putting some of those business skills to use post-graduation with an LLC he founded called Journey Sports to start youth basketball training camps.

“I’ve got a big vision for it,” he says. “I want to have our own facility and a lot of coaches there. It’s all about the kids just trying to develop them and give them another opportunity to grow.”

He also plans on playing professionally as long as he can, whether here in the States or overseas (tryouts with NBA teams start in mid-May). One day, he hopes to coach.

“The biggest thing that I’ve taken away from basketball is the relationships,” he says. “The relationships with my teammates will last a lifetime, obviously, but my mentors, my coaches, have had the most impact on me outside of my family. They’re the reason I want to coach, to try to have the same impact on kids. They really helped me grow into a young man.”