You won’t find an easier team in the country to root for than St. Louis.
Let’s start with the fact that this team is dealing with the loss of their head coach, Rick Majerus. He stepped away from the program during the offseason to battle a heart condition that eventually took his life a month-and-a-half ago.
You don’t think that’s tough on this team? Look at Brian Conklin’s reaction (6:30 mark) when he realized he would never play for Majerus again. Read this terrific story on what the Billiken team is going through this season while dealing with the loss. (The anecdote about Cody Ellis at the bottom is sensational.)
This group of kids — and while they’re big and muscular and athletic and playing a sport at a level most of use only dream of, they’re still kids, many of whom still can’t legally drink — has plenty to think about and deal with already, but they still find the time and the energy to welcome Joshua Brown into their world.
Who’s Joshua Brown, you ask? From Tom Timmerman:
Joshua Brown is neither a powerful booster nor a prized recruit. He’s a 9-year-old from Belleville with a brain tumor who has been adopted by the Billikens.
The SLU basketball team and Joshua came together through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, a group that connects children with brain tumors with local college sports teams. The foundation was started by the parents of Jaclyn Murphy, who as a 9-year-old in 2004 had taken inspiration during treatments for a malignant tumor by a poster in her room of a college lacrosse player celebrating a victory. She declared that she would play lacrosse again when well, and eventually, through friends, word of this desire got to the Northwestern lacrosse team, which made her part of the team and, in just its third year of competition, won the NCAA championship.
The Browns had read about the foundation and signed up. The group reached out to SLU and the request found its way to Mike Lepore, SLU’s director of basketball operations, who signed them up.
I don’t want to take too much from the story, because it’s undoubtedly worth the click and the five minutes to read it, but it’s pretty clear that Josh is helping the Billikens just as much as the Billikens are helping him.
College athletes don’t ask to be role models or pillars in the community. They are there to play a sport and, maybe, learn a thing or two in class. There is nothing wrong with a player that simply wants to show up every day, do his job, do his classwork, and be left alone.
But there’s something so heartwarming about players that embrace being something more; that use their status in the community to help others that are not quite as fortunate as they are.
I’m sure St. Louis isn’t doing this for the attention or the positive media coverage, but they deserve. Kudos, fellas.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.