On December 18, 2012, four days after a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. which left 26 people dead, Winthrop head coach Pat Kelsey, the father of two daughters, used his post game press conference after losing to No. 4 Ohio State as a platform to call for change.
“I know this microphone is powerful right now because we’re playing the fourth best team in the country,” he said. “I’m not going to microphone like this the rest of the year, maybe the rest of my life. And I’m going to be an agent of change with the 13 young men that I get to coach every day and the two little girls that I get to raise.”
Through that speech, which went viral, Kelsey formed a connection with Steve and Rebecca Kowalski, who lost their 7-year-old son, Chase on that tragic afternoon. On Saturday, Kelsey met the Kowalskis for the first time, inviting them to Winthrop’s 82-60 win over Presbyterian.
In addition to honoring the Kowalskis and remembering all who were lost on December 14, 2012, the Winthrop basketball team wore the first names of all the children on the back of their jerseys. Senior captain Joab Jerome wore the name Chase on the back of his No. 4 uniform.
The Kowalskis have started the The Chase Michael Anthony Kowalski Sandy Hook Memorial Foundation (CMAK) to support physical and mental health. Kelsey intends to be involved in the foundation, according to the The Herald.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.