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Vol. 53, No. 2 • January 2016 • .pdf version
There's no shortage of Most Courageous candidates
By DAVID TEEL / Newport News Daily Press
During his ESPY stem-winder in 1993, Jim Valvano offered sage advice.
"If you laugh, you think, and you cry," he said, "that's a full day. That's a heck of a day."
Attending the USBWA's Final Four lunch virtually assures you a heck of a day. The reason: our Most Courageous Award.
Since its 1978 inception, the Most Courageous has recognized players, coaches, administrators, indeed entire programs, for overcoming myriad hardships. To hear their stories, to meet them in-person, to marvel at their strength truly meets Jimmy V's criteria.
Valvano received the award in 1993, a decade after his national championship at North Carolina State and mere weeks before his death from cancer. There was Arizona's Steve Kerr in 1988, four years after his father was assassinated in Lebanon. There was Virginia Tech's Rayna DuBose in 2003, forging on despite losing portions of four limbs to a bacterial infection in her brain and spinal cord.
Given the following nominees for our 2016 Most Courageous Award, the USBWA lunch April 4 in Houston promises to be equally inspiring:
• Isaiah Williams has emerged from a violent section of Newark, N.J., to become one of Iona's best players. According to a story by NJ.com's Matthew Stanmyre, Williams has lost 24 friends and worries daily about his younger brother.
"I was close with all of them," Williams told Stanmyre. "But they was in the streets, and all of them got killed by gun violence."
• Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin has returned to the Bearcats' bench after missing much of last season recovering from a brain aneurysm.
"I say this to everybody, but most people discount it," Cronin told the Hartford Courant's Dom Amore and others at the American Athletic Conference's preseason gathering. "We're all day-to-day. When you go through what I went through, you realize that. For most people, it's never hit them in the face."
• Rob Moxley's heart stopped in the ambulance. Paramedics revived him, and doctors later determined that he had suffered three small strokes. Thank heavens his wife had been at home and called 911 when he was too unsteady to navigate the stairs.
Five months after that May scare, Moxley was back at work as a North Carolina State assistant coach.
"I've fought through it," he told the Raleigh News & Observer's Luke DeCock. "I've rehabbed and I'm back full-time, working here at State where I want to be, where I love to be. I'm blessed to be here, that's for sure."
• Bryant assistant Chris Burns in October became the first Division I men's coach to come out as gay and has been overwhelmed by the support of Bryant's program and from colleagues such as Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.
"I can't say enough about believing in the good in people, the good in human beings," Burns told USA Today. "They can surprise you, energize you, give you a good reason to believe in the world."
• Kyle Castlin was Columbia's second-leading scorer last season as a freshman, averaging 10.3 points and starting all 28 games. His father would have been proud.
Rodney Castlin, a night clerk at a suburban Atlanta hotel, was murdered on the job in December 2000. His son was 4 years old.
Last October, as Kyle prepared for his college basketball debut, police finally made an arrest.
In a story by Martin Kessler for onebidwonders.com, Kyle said his father "basically put a ball in my hand when I was like 2 years old. Just playing on that little goal in my home, I started to really get a love for it … After losing him, I really wanted to make something special out of it."
There are many other worthy candidates. Graduate transfer Jimmy Gavin is excelling this season for Winthrop after overcoming Crohn's disease and his younger brother's death in an automobile accident. Diagnosed with arrhythmia in 2013, Northern Kentucky's Jalen Billups has played the last two seasons with a defibrillator in his chest and is among the nation's most accurate shooters.
New Mexico assistant coach Chris Harriman has lived with fear and uncertainty for more than five years as his son has battled leukemia. Stetson guard Divine Myles was born three months premature, and doctors were surprised he even had eyes and lungs. Illinois guard Tracy Abrams is on Take 3 of his senior season after a torn ACL and ruptured Achilles shelved him in consecutive preseasons.
The 2016 Most Courageous recipient will be announced in early 2016 and presented the award at the Final Four. It promises to be a heck of a day.
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