Jason Guarante (@JasonGuarante)
Andrew Funk’s days at Bucknell are quickly falling off the calendar. He has reached his last semester. His last chance to make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
It hasn’t always been a smooth ride for the Archbishop Wood grad. Funk’s junior year was shortened to 12 games because of COVID-19. His senior year has included growing pains with a young team.
Funk keeps pushing. He’s hoping for a turnaround.
Andrew Funk (above) is having a career-best year as a senior at Bucknell. (Photo courtesy Bucknell Athletics)
“I’m trying to keep the big picture in mind,” he said. “We have a lot of potential. There’s a lot of growth to be made. We just have to make sure we’re getting better every day. That’s been the biggest thing. Being patient with guys and making sure we’re in this for the long haul.”
Bucknell is 3-13 and has dropped its first four games in the Patriot League. That’s the hard part. The frustrating part. The silver lining is Funk has never played better. This is his breakout year, one that could catapult him toward a bright future.
The 6-foot-5 guard is averaging 18.1 points and is shooting nearly 45% from the floor. Both are career highs. Only Loyola’s Cam Spencer has scored more per game within the league than Funk.
“He has reached his potential,” Bucknell coach Nathan Davis said. “I think he’ll continue to get better. He’ll still get stronger and more experienced. He’s as good a player as there is in our league. He’s a great mid-major player. Because of that he’ll have a wealth of opportunities moving forward.”
Funk has made a quantum leap despite the obstacles placed in front of him. The Warrington native averaged 12.9 points as a junior and didn’t have a full schedule to refine his skills.
Improvement came without games. It came from all the work behind the scenes.
Andrew Funk has seven games of 20+ points this year, including a career-high 38 against Illinois State. (Photo courtesy Bucknell Athletics)
“I was a lot more focused, especially this offseason, on my preparation,” Funk said. “I was in the weight room every day. I was in the gym every day. I was concentrating on what I needed to do to get better. I wanted to come into this year being prepared for everything. I knew there were going to be high expectations for me.”
Funk has been placed in a challenging situation. Six of the team’s 12 players are freshmen and sophomores. They’re building toward next year and beyond..
The senior’s role has evolved. As a freshman, he was a reserve averaging 14 minutes for a contender. Bucknell came within one win of that coveted NCAA bid. Now Funk is the leader. He’s motivating and keeping spirits high after losses.
“One of the big reasons I came to Bucknell is because I wanted to go to the NCAA Tournament,” Funk said. “We had a shot my freshman year. A little up-and-down since then. It’s tough. It can be frustrating at times. But the big thing is you’ve just got to keep showing up right now. In the Patriot League, anything can happen. Especially come March.”
Funk doesn’t care about the points. He cares about winning. That can be traced through his unselfish past.
Archbishop Wood won the PIAA Class 5A championship when Funk was a junior in 2017. Although he was already a Division I recruit, he was content to be the sixth man. To provide a spark off the bench. His reward was a gold medal and lifetime memories.
“That year taught me a lot,” Funk said. “We had a lot of great guys on that team. I learned so much from Collin Gillespie and the way he led. I’ve been fortunate to win a lot of games in my career. That’s kind of where it started. I was ready to do anything to help us do that.”
Funk (above, in 2017-18) was a big part of Wood's 2017 PIAA Class 5A championship squad, the program's first state title. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Funk was a wiry kid, roughly 160 pounds, before he showed up at Bucknell. Davis joked that he couldn’t get the ball to the rim after the first two weeks of weightlifting.
That didn’t deter Davis from recruiting the former Wood standout, whose brother Tommy Funk was a four-year starter at point guard for Army from 2016-20, setting the program career assist record (728). Davis was confident the younger Funk brother was the right athletic and academic fit.
“The high school program he comes from, you know what they do,” Davis said. “There was no reason to believe with his skill set and his attitude that he wouldn’t become a very good player. For us who have been around him, it hasn’t been surprising one bit.”
Funk has a fifth year of eligibility because of COVID. He plans to use it. He said he’ll most likely pursue his MBA at a different school. He’s already starting to feel a bit nostalgic about his time in Lewisburg.
The dream is to play professionally someday. He has the size, now bulked up to 188 pounds, and the scoring ability to get there. Basketball is a big part of his world.
“There’s something about it that pulls me in,” Funk said. “I love working hard at it. I love getting better, the progression that’s in it. I love being part of something that’s bigger than yourself. Those are really important things to me. I want to be able to pursue them for as long as I can.”
Between now and then, he has these final weeks at Bucknell. He’s going to savor them and hope for that turnaround.