By Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
Eddie Paquette corralled an offensive board with 11.4 seconds left and his team clinging to a two-point lead. He then sank a pair of free throws to up his team’s lead to four.
They were just two of the instances of winning plays Swarthmore’s 6-foot-2 sophomore guard contributed to a 68-64 win over DeSales on Saturday at Tarble Pavilion — plays he’s made frequently during a 3-1 start to the season.
“We’re all about just doing what we do,” Paquette said. “We work on o-rebounds in practice and our other four players did their role and the ball just happened to bounce out that way, and I was able to get it. That’s what we do everyday, so it was no surprise that it happened at that moment.”
Those types of plays have become more and more common for Paquette in his first season as a starter. After serving as one of the Garnet’s top options off the bench last season, he’s thriving in what he calls a “catch-all” role.
Paquette came into Saturday averaging 11.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 4.6 apg in the team’s first three games before scoring seven points, grabbing 11 rebounds and adding five assists and a steal in another statsheet stuffing performance against DeSales.
“Definitely a lot more responsibility on defense and on offense this year, and on top of that, he’s doing a lot of stuff you don’t catch in the box score, just being a dog really,” senior guard Vinny DeAngelo said. “He’s got a really great mentality. His ‘next play’ is off the charts, and he has that ability to sort of get us out of ruts, and he’s been doing that to an awesome degree this year so far.”
Swathmore sophomore guard Eddie Paquette drives to the basket Saturday against DeSales. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
That goes back to Paquette’s high school days.
The Vienna, Va. native took a 40-minute train from the northern part of the state to D.C. to attend the prestigious Gonzaga College High School on an academic scholarship for four years.
While it is academically prestigious, Gonzaga is also a basketball powerhouse.
Guys like Malcolm Dread (Richmond) and Judah Mintz (Syracuse) were some of the standouts on the team Paquette’s first two years at the school, when he played on the freshman team then junior varsity squad. His 2022 class included Devin Dinkins (George Mason), Jared Turner (Northeastern) and Quinn Clark (NYU) and current Harvard freshman Thomas Batties was a year behind.
Paquette was set to play varsity as a junior before stress fractures in his back shortened an already COVID-shortened season. He broke into the starting lineup to begin his senior season before freshman Nyk Lewis, currently a Top 50 prospect in the 2025 class, took his spot. Paquette adapted to find a way to stay on the court. He averaged 4.8 ppg and 3.8 rpg on a loaded squad and earned all-conference honorable mention.
“I think a lot of my identity now comes from high school,” Paquette said. “I played freshman, JV. You had to work. You had to earn it. Then when you’re on varsity, you’re behind six DI guys. You’re not going to be that No. 1 option, so the way you earn playing time is by playing defense, getting stops, getting rebounds and helping the team. … I’ve been able to carry on here.”
Paquette is a computer engineering and economics major. His older brothers were both high-academic students as well — one just graduated from Georgetown and the other is at Notre Dame — so his mom was excited to hear Swarthmore was one of the school’s recruiting him in high school. She was aware of the school’s academic prestige.
Swarthmore sophomore Eddie Paquette recorded the program's first triple-double in 16 years earlier this week against Cabrini. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
After waiting his turn in high school he saw the floor right away for the Garnet during a 28-4 season that ended with a Centennial Conference championship and a run to the Division III Final Four. Paquette played in all 32 games last season, averaging 5.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg and 1.8 apg assists in 19.5 minutes per contest.
“I give 100 percent credit to those older guys,” Paquette said. “It’s easy as a senior to be, ‘Oh, you’re a freshman. You carry this. You carry that.’ But no, I was one of them. They took me under their wing. Not only our success last year was a product of that inclusion, but I think this year. I think all we can ask for is to give that to our freshmen now. I think you can see them blossoming into their roles too.”
George Visconti (14.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.3 apg) and Colin Shaw (9.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg) were two of the players ahead of Paquette in the backcourt rotation who graduated last season.
He joined DeAngelo and sophomore Cal Hanson in the starting backcourt this season. Freshman guard Nyle Coleman is in the rotations as one of the top options off the bench.
“A young group, but learning is off the charts,” DeAngelo said. “They’re super coachable and super talented guys who work really hard inside practice and outside. That hunger is really good because it’s kind of contagious for everybody else, and they’ve brought that level to us.”
Paquette said helping replace the defense of Visconti and Shaw and the rest of last year’s senior group has been a focus of his this season.
Playing more out on the wing instead of the point guard spot, Paquette is also allowed to crash the glass for rebounds more often. That’s something he enjoys as he calls rebounding “an art.”
He racked up a career-high 12 boards in Wednesday’s win over Cabrini, also adding 10 points and a career-high 10 assists to record his first-ever triple-double and the program’s first triple-double in 16 years.
“It was something cool,” Paquette said. I’ve never had one before. I didn’t know it was happening. But all I had to do was feed Mike (Caprise) in the post and that gave me 10 assists. I guess that’s where it came from.”
The mindset hasn’t changed for Paquette this season. The path he took carved out a person who never takes anything for granted.
He wants to help Swarthmore win another Centennial Conference championship and make a deep tournament run. He’ll do whatever it takes to get there.
“I think the most important thing is not having this preconceived notion like I’m a scorer, I deserve playing time,” Paquette said. “I think it's very important that you earn it and you work everyday and you do it for the people on your right and left. Whatever follows from that follows from that.”