Joey Mullaney

Lawrence Academy manager Joey Mullaney dunks to start the game (VIDEO)

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Saturday afternoon, Lawrence Academy (Mass.) dropped its final game of the season to Buckingham Browne and Nichols (Mass.) 65-63 on Senior Day. However, the game’s first basket, greatly outweighed the final score.

Earlier in the week, Lawrence head coach Kevin Wiercinski approached senior manager Joey Mullaney, who suffers from a rare neurological disorder called Friedreich’s ataxia, and asked about whether he wanted to suit up for the final game of the season, in the hopes of getting him on the floor.

“He was like ‘let me think about it,'” said Wiercinski. “Then he came in after the next class and he was like, ‘I’ll do it under one condition.’”

“If I can dunk,” said Mullaney, who retold the conversation in a phone interview on Monday afternoon.

“He laughed it off,” added Mullaney. “I was like, ‘I’m not lying. I’m dunking it.’ I’ve seen these kind of shots before where kids do layups or threes. I just really wanted to go out with a bang.”

After giving a quick call to BB&N, as well as requesting the referees neglect the rules for about 30 seconds, the Spartans spent Friday practicing the staged dunk.

The play began with teammate Darrien Myers winning the tip, with the help of Myers and Jalen Myrie, Mullaney got on top of the shoulders of 6-foot-7 Daquan Sampson. And the most important part of all, Mullaney’s twin brother, Sean, was able to give Joey the assist on his biggest athletic accomplishment.

“I would say it’s probably the greatest athletic achievement of my life, as well,” said Sean in a phone interview on Tuesday. “He had to give up so much of his life, so quickly, because of his disease, and to see him on the floor right in front of me, doing something we thought he never could, it was awesome.”

Being on the floor and even dunking wasn’t enough for Joey, who had to add some flare to the special moment.

“I did a little pull up like Dwyane Wade would do,” joked Mullaney. “I had to add emphasis to the dunk.”

Mullaney, who’s 22-year old sister Kaela also suffers from FA, hasn’t played a game of organized basketball since he was in eighth grade due the progression of the disease. It affects his walking, speech and hand-eye coordination. He needs help walking to and from class, although, he is typically being assisted by a female student as his coach points out.

“What it does is it kills the iron in your legs, so you can’t control your muscles,” explained Mullaney. “It starts from the legs and works its way up. Freshman year wasn’t that bad, now I’m much worse and I really need help walking anywhere.”

Joey continues to fight the disease, refusing to use a wheelchair while working out with the school’s trainer consistently. He will enroll in Quinnipiac this fall and hopes to be involved in the men’s basketball program. His twin brother, Sean, will play baseball at Bowdoin College. After years of being sidelined and months away from being separated by a four-hour drive, the Mullaneys were able to share the hardwood together once again.

“It was awesome,” said Joey. “I truly thought it would never happen again. It meant the world to me to play on the court with my brother one last time.”

Terrence is also the lead writer at and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.