The game clock reaches 0:00, and the final buzzer has sounded, marking yet another year for the Piedmont Lions men’s basketball team where they are eliminated from the USA South conference tournament. The locker room is dead quiet, the only sound you can hear is the sniffles of the seniors struggling to hold back tears, coming to the conclusion that their basketball careers, for many who played the sport since they were toddlers, are officially over.

One senior who made a huge impact in his four years wearing the green and white is Justin Vallejo. The 6’7 forward had a decorated career as a Piedmont Lion to say the least; he’s a 1,000-point scorer and the all-time leader in rebounds at Piedmont. His legacy will most definitely live on well after he graduates, but the accomplishment that always eluded him was a conference championship. This most recent early elimination, he says, hurts the most.

“It’s tough,” Vallejo said, still trying to hold back his emotions. “For as hard as we played, we just couldn’t pull it out in the end. I didn’t want to go out like this, but I guess that’s just how it goes.”

Although the season didn’t end the way he wanted it to, Justin’s impact on the game and his teammates over the course of his career was unmatched. He was definitely one of those guys who you hated to play against but loved to have on your team. Peyton Luken, a graduate assistant for the men’s team, had the ability to both coach and play with Vallejo, has some very high praise for the senior big man.

“He is hands down one of the best players I have ever seen,” Luken said. “He could just impact the course of a game in so many ways it was almost scary at times. He’ll definitely be remembered for years after he leaves.”

Now that his time as a Piedmont basketball player is over, the big question to ask is what the next move will be for Vallejo. Playing basketball overseas could be an option for him, but as of right now, his main focus is finishing up his mass communications capstone. For his project, Vallejo is working on bringing awareness to the true competitiveness of Division III sports. His plan for greater awareness is a talk show called “D3for30”, where he talks about all of the news surrounding D3 sports, with a website/blog to go along with it.

“People just automatically assume that D3 is just a division with no talent because it isn’t D2 or D1,” Vallejo said. “But people don’t actually take the time to look at how competitive we are and how many good players from D3 end up doing big things later on.”

Even Vallejo’s teammates are excited about what he has to say on the matter of D3 sports.

“I love [what Justin is doing].” Said fellow senior Landry Assinesi. “People don’t understand how tough D3 actually is. I remember playing a few D1 teams in my 4 years here and we always played them tough, there were even some games that we definitely could have won.”

No matter what he decides to do, his accomplishments as a Piedmont Lion basketball player will forever be cemented in time.