The influence Mike Proctor had on Northern Colorado's standard-setting season is hard to measure at first glance.

He mostly came off the bench this season after starting 31 of 33 games as a sophomore and averaged 17 minutes compared to nearly 24 minutes the year before.

"It was a sign that we were getting better as a team and that is all that matters," the Desert Vista graduate said. "I'll do whatever the team needs and whatever role that takes. If we are winning that is all that matters."

That they did, but taking a closer look at Proctor's season tells the story.

Northern Colorado finished 21-11 and won the Big Sky regular season title at 13-3, but to truly understand Proctor's influence on the team go back to the early portion of the season when he missed five games from the end of November to the end of December because of a broken thumb.

The team went 1-4 without him and upon his return the Bears went on a seven-game winning streak.

"It was tough being out," Proctor, who helped Desert Vista to the semifinals as a senior, said. "I think I had a subpar season overall because my team couldn't depend on me every game. It was frustrating. I was playing really well before that and I had to work to get back in a groove."

Northern Colorado won the Big Sky Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament as the 15th seed before falling 68-50 to No. 2 San Diego State in the Tucson regional.

The program has been a Division I school for just five years and it was the first time the Bears qualified for March Madness.

"It was a great experience and just pushed our expectations for next year even higher," said Proctor, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound junior post player. "We took the next step by winning the Big Sky and getting a feel for the NCAA Tournament. Even though we lost no one can take away the fact that we were the first team to make it."

The fact that the tournament was in Tucson made it easier for his family to come see him play as his parents, Mike Sr. and Linda, his brother, Richard, and aunt, Diane McCormick, made the trip to the McKale Center.

"The atmosphere wasn't as great as it could have been because they lost, but it was great seeing your son play at that level," Mike Sr. said. "Seeing them beat Montana (for the Big Sky Tournament title) and cut down the nets was unbelievable."

Having his dad there was especially important after a health scare for the elder Proctor a few months back put everything in perspective.

"It was hard being so far away," Mike Jr. said. "That was the hardest part. I wasn't sure what to do or how to handle myself. I was very thankful for my team and coaches who helped talk me through it. When the National Anthem ended (before each game) I would take a deep breath and control what I could for the next two hours and put everything else to the side."

Proctor put all of the adversity of the season to the side and had a strong finish to the season. He was named to the Big Sky Tournament all-tournament team. He averaged 6.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in the tournament compared to 5.4 and 5.6 overall.

It just lends to him becoming one of the team's leaders next year as a senior and he can't wait to start preparing.

"I'll take some time to recharge and then start thinking about it," he said. "We know what we can do now and anything else will be considered a failure."

 

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