The questions are about Jimmy Mullin yet his answers lean more towards his team.
And in these answers Mullin is proving he’s paid attention to everything he’s learned his freshman year at Miami (Ohio), which finds itself trying to its first-ever NCAA title.
“I know I am going to sound like a broken record,” Mullin says from his phone in Oxford, Ohio where campus is located. “But we are going to take it one game at a time. It’s cliche, I know but we don’t want to look ahead at the future because we might be missing something in the present.”
Mullin, a former Fargo Force star, and his Miami teammates open the NCAA Tournament on Friday against UMass-Lowell. If Miami were to win it would face the winner of Union-Michigan State which as Mullin showed, he’s not worried about right now.
It’s nothing personal. Mullin just believes in taking a measured approach towards his objectives and it appears that’s the biggest lesson he’s learned this season.
Mullin left the Force last season having scored 60 points in 52 games giving him one of the best individual seasons in the team’s history. The Tampa Lightning draft pick had the reputation as being an offensive-minded player but the Miami coaching staff demanded that he be more than a scorer.
“The first 10 games I didn’t get on the ice much and then I learned that it is going to be a battle and it is going to be tough and there was more to this game I had to learn,” Mullin said. “I thought I had it down but once I saw they were not going to let me unreliable on the defensive end and once I found that out, I felt better about what I had to do.”
Mullin said Miami coach Enrico Blasi and his staff are constantly preaching defense even to forwards in the hopes of making them better two-way players.
He said making the adjustment got easier because everyone saw that he was willing to work. In turn, that made it even easier for his teammates and coaches to help Mullin develop into a better defensive player.
Becoming a two-way player, to hear Mullin talk, has been the most rewarding experience he’s had regarding his development. That says a lot considering his 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists) make him Miami’s third leading-scorer this year.
“We like to pride ourselves on our defensive play,” Mullin said. “Because if we play good defense, it allows us to control the game and then control the offense.”
Mullin said in so many words the reason why he’s been able to commit himself to Miami’s beliefs is because of “The Brotherhood”, a name given to the program to reflect the unity which exists in the program.
Brotherhood has always been an underlying current at Oxford considering three fratnerities were founded at Miami.
The idea of “The Brotherhood” was something Mullin was conscious of going back to his first visit before he committed. Even after he committed, the connection was there. Whether it be catching up with future Miami teammates after USHL games or wearing a Brendan Burke bracelet, it was clear he was joining something genuine.
“I was given a Brendan Burke bracelet right after it all happened,” Mullin said. “I had it when I was at Shattuck (St. Mary’s) and I had it in Fargo and it’s never broken.”
Burke was Miami’s student manager when he died in an automobile accident in February 2010. Burke, who came out in 2009, was an advocate for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered community speaking out against homophobia.
His impact, even today, still resonates within the program and in the hockey world.
Mullin said there’s not a day that goes by where he doesn’t see an image of Burke at the team’s hockey facility.
“He might not be with us,” Mullin said. “But he’s in our hearts.”
Learning to be part of a family along with loving everyone in that family has been the driving force behind Mullin’s freshman year.
When asked to explain “The Brotherhood” and what it means to him, there was no pause. No need to think.
He had his answer.
“‘The Brotherhood’ the way I see it, is nobody is left behind,” Mullin said. “It is about being a good person and realizing if you do that, you won’t have any worries in life. You don’t want to come to the rink with any distractions and that’s what our coach preaches. If you have something on your mind, they want you to talk about it so you reach your potential. It’s preached to us everyday the friendships we make will last a lifetime and I see why. With the playoffs, everyone has gotten closer because of it and it has been nice.”