During her career at St. Joseph’s, Sarah Fairbanks has set a standard for her basketball ability and her ability off the court to grasp what the university community can provide while also demonstrating how to reciprocate.
The 6-1 forward has twice won the team’s community service award, has twice been named to the athletic director’s honor roll and twice was named the most improved player in the Big 5, an association of Philadelphia-based schools that also includes Villanova, LaSalle, Penn and Temple.
While much of her senior season has yet to play out, the recognition serves as confirmation that Fairbanks’ experience at St. Joseph’s has played out very well.
“We take our academics very seriously here,” said the interdisciplinary health services major. “I know that is more important than basketball and that is what has to be done first. Excelling at it is even better. On the court I guess (the Big 5 recognition) just validates that I have been working hard and that I have gotten better every year.”
Fairbanks has more than capably handled the plateful of responsibilities that have accompanied her time at the university. For starters, each player on the Hawks is required 10 hours of community service per semester. Her and her teammates have, in large part, fulfilled that responsibility by helping at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Fairbanks is also taking a class that requires volunteer services on a weekly basis. She is fulfilling that commitment by assisting at a nursing home while working under the direction of its recreation department. At the home she also assists in numerous other ways whether it is serving meals or helping residents back to their rooms, experiences she considers most gratifying.
Of course, with school work, practice, games and travel, there is a hefty schedule to manage. Frankly, Fairbanks would have it no other way.
“I think when you are busy you get more things done,” she said. “With the community service, school and basketball, I believe that having all of that on the schedule means that it simply needs to get done. It is about managing time wisely and making sure things are taken care of.”
The Elizabethtown, Pa., native places much value in being as responsible a teammate as possible, a characteristic that resulted in her being named the team’s Vasquez Award winner last season. The honor goes to the individual who, according to the school, “best exemplifies the Jesuit values of being a person for others.”
Fairbanks is always aspiring to improve especially with the intangibles.
“Coming into this season I wanted to work on being a better leader because I am a senior and it is my last go-around,” she said. “I want to be a better teammate. It’s about being there for my team.”
After averaging 10.4 points and 6.1 rebounds last season, Fairbanks was second on the Hawks in scoring (11.0) and led the way in rebounding (7.1) through 13 games this season. With a team-high 13 blocks she was closing in on 100 for her career.
Strong at the free throw line, her 81% shooting was good for second in the Atlantic-10 Conference.
“My focus has always been to build on what I did the previous season,” said Fairbanks, whose father, Art, played basketball and football at Shippensburg (Pa.) University. “This season I want to improve on ways I can score because now I probably have the (opposition’s) best post defenders, so I need to have a lot of counters and be able to score in other ways. I also need to get better defensively because now I defend the opponent’s best post player, or sometimes even a guard.”
While her focus is on the current season as the Hawks navigate the A-10 schedule, Fairbanks, who is scheduled to graduate in May, should have many potential career doors with which to open. Her major allows her to explore a broad range of areas under the medical umbrella including nursing, physical therapy and occupational therapy.
Fairbanks said she might want to go the physician assistant route. To that extent, last summer she had an internship under Dr. Karen Rizzo, an otolaryngologist who was a basketball standout at Villanova in the late-1970s when she was known as Karen Hiznay.
“That was a real cool connection we had,” said Fairbanks. “I was a medical assistant, which was real awesome.”
Though there is still much for her to accomplish on and off the court in her remaining few months of college “awesome” might best describe the career Fairbanks has had at St. Joseph’s.