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The Scarlet & Black

Sean Cullinane ’18 and Vinny Curta ’19 each broke records during the final game of the basketball season. Photo by Elena Copell.
Sean Cullinane ’18 and Vinny Curta ’19 each broke records during the final game of the basketball season. Photo by Elena Copell.

Another Pioneer men’s basketball season has ended with two major records broken. Last weekend, as the men’s team wrapped up at Illinois College, both Sean Cullinane ’18 and Vinny Curta ’19 etched their names in history. Cullinane is now the school record-holder for career 3-point percentage (47.5 percent), while Curta has set the national Division III record for both free throw attempts (327) and free throws made (252) in a season. Men’s basketball head coach David Arseneault Jr., in an email to The S&B, emphasized the impact Cullinane and Curta have had on the program.

“I’m proud of both Vinny and Sean. It’s exciting that their names will be etched in the record books for their accomplishments and they deserve all the credits for their hard work and determination,” Arsenault wrote.

For Cullinane, who is now a senior, this is an incredible ending to his basketball career. Being considered one of the best 3-point shooters in school history is no small feat when playing in “The System.” Cullinane was recruited out of high school to assume the role of a 3-point shooter, so this record is a culmination of all the hard work he’s put in for the past four years to perfect his shooting.

“[Over the years] I gradually get more accurate; my release gets quicker. I started getting more shots in the game,” Cullinane said.

What is even more impressive about Cullinane’s record is the frequency with which he shot 3-pointers throughout his career. Yet, his numbers don’t lie. With an astounding career accuracy of 47.5 percent from beyond the arc, Cullinane is, in Arseneault’s words, “one of the best pure shooters in GC history.” This season in particular, he’s also developed a better isolation game.

“Sean was effective off his own dribble this season and did an incredible job creating his own shot attempt when defenses overextended to him,” Arseneault wrote.

While Cullinane was busy knocking down jumpers from the outside, Curta was causing mayhem in the paint. With a career 29.2 3-point percentage, Curta admits he’s developed a better inside game than outside game. This season, he made 252 shots from the charity stripe, a factor which helps contribute to another high mark of Curta’s, his division III best in points per game at 32.7.

“It’s all about trying to pick up fouls on the other team. When we pick up fouls and get their best players out, it helps our defense because the [opponents] have to put their bench players in,” Curta said.

This is the one part of the Grinnell system that many people don’t talk about. To kick the ball out to open shooters outside the arc, the point guard must first drive into the teeth of the defense, attack the paint and force it to collapse on him. This works great for Grinnell because that’s where Curta makes his bread-and-butter.

“I can get people to jump and get out of their comfort zone defensively. So [getting to the free throw line] is just about working on being creative around the rim,” Curta said.

Nevertheless, working to draw fouls of big men and guards who are chasing you down also means putting yourself in awkward positions in midair. Many times during games Curta would go down in ways that may seem like an easy way to get hurt. To Curta, however, it’s only a part of his job.

“Yes, I think there are more consequences when you play like that. It’s [always] more challenging to stay healthy when you’re constantly being aggressive, and especially with me trying to pick up fouls on other guys. I’m just thankful I didn’t have any serious injuries this year,” Curta said.

Although Cullinane will leave his 3-point legacy behind at Grinnell when he graduates in May, Curta returns for one final push next year, and it’s not unimaginable that other records will be broken along the way.

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