The whole story seems to affirm the old saying, "when the student is ready, the teacher appears"... just not always where you'd expect him to be:
On Saturday, Feb. 7, the boys’ basketball team of DeKalb High School and Madison High School were scheduled to play a basketball game in Milwaukee, Wis. I thought that’s what we were going to play, a basketball game, but it turned out to be much more than that.
My name is Aaron Womack, Jr., and I am the head boy’s basketball coach at Madison High School. I am writing this letter to inform you about the wonderful gesture and sportsmanship that the coaching staff of DeKalb displayed this past Saturday.
One player’s mother passed away earlier in the day prior to our scheduled game. Upon finding out, I left the gym for the hospital during the Junior Varsity basketball game I knew that there was a chance I might be late getting back to the gym for the Varsity game, but felt I had to leave. Upon my arrival back to the gym the J.V. game had ended and the DeKalb’s Boys’ Varsity team was warming up.
My team was not on the court and the clock was not running to indicate when the game was going to start. I rushed to get to the locker room and stopped to talk to the coaching staff from DeKalb who were waiting patiently. I tried to inform them that we were going to play the game and their head coach, Dave Rohlman told me to just take my time. I thought this was a wonderful gesture seeing as how they had traveled over two hours and any delay would keep them from returning home at a decent time.
After talking to my team we entered the floor, minus the player whose mother had passed, and two other players who went to the hospital as well. We were warming up with 6 players, when Coach Chris Davenport mentioned that he understood if we didn’t want to play considering what had just happened and that it looked like some of the players might be too emotional to play. I thanked him and said no, we’ll play, that you came too far not to play. He said don’t worry about my players and was sincerely more concerned about us than playing the game. This type of display of sportsmanship is almost unheard of nowadays.
I was already impressed with how well the DeKalb team and coaches conducted themselves and was moved by their kindness. but that was nothing compared to what the Coaching staff displayed later during the contest.
Toward the end of a closely guarded contest I noticed that the player whose mother had passed entered the gym. Not only had he come to the game, but I was instructed that he wanted to play as well.
I didn’t enter the player in the book because after talking to him earlier at the hospital I knew he wasn’t going to play. I asked if he was sure that he wanted to play and then took a time out to let my team greet the player and inform the referees that I will be receiving a technical for entering a player that was not in the official book.
The referee then told the coaching staff of DeKalb of the situation and I could hear them arguing about how they didn’t want the technical and the refs telling them that they had to take it. The game resumed and was still a close game. With about 5 minutes left in the 2nd quarter DeKalb had taken a time out and at this time I entered the player into the game and was prepared to receive a technical. When the refs came over to the DeKalb bench to ask who would shoot the technical, they again argued that they didn’t want it. Finally they sent a player to the line, a number 11, Darius McNeal.
I assumed that he was their best free throw shooter and knew he was a pretty good player and a starter. While waiting for him to make the first free throw I caught a glimpse of the ball going out of bounds. I thought that maybe they sent the wrong shooter to the line, but when the 2nd free throw rolled out of bounds as well, I knew he was instructed to miss on purpose. I was overwhelmed with this display of almost unheard of sportsmanship and class. As I mentioned the game was close, and any opportunity for a score would be very beneficial. As a principal, school, school district staff, and community you should all feel immense pride for the remarkable job that the coaching staff is doing in not only coaching these young men, but teaching them how to be leaders.
Also, I’d like to recognize Darius who stepped up to miss the shot on purpose. He could have been selfish and cared only for his own stats (I hope Coach Rohlman doesn’t make him run for missing the free throws).
If I am unable to coach my own son when he becomes of age, I’m moving to DeKalb and enrolling him as a Barb.
Coach Aaron Womack Jr.
Fritsche Middle School
As DeKalb coach Dave Rohlman and point guard Darius McNeal later explained to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
"I gathered my kids and said, 'Who wants to take these free throws?'" [coach]Rohlman said... "Darius McNeal put up his hand. I said, 'You realize you're going to miss, right?' He nodded his head."
McNeal, a senior point guard, went to the line. The Milwaukee Madison players stayed by their bench, waiting for the free throws. Instead of seeing the ball go through the net, they saw the ball on the court, rolling over the end line.
"I did it for the guy who lost his mom," McNeal told the newspaper. "It was the right thing to do."
After the second shot, everyone in the gym - including all the Madison players - stood and applauded the gesture of sportsmanship.