LANCASTER, PA — The Washington College men’s and women’s basketball teams have swept the male and female Centennial Conference Sportsmanship Awards. The Shoremen and Shorewomen were chosen among student-athletes and teams across the conference’s 12 men’s and 12 women’s championship sports and will now be placed on the ballot for the NCAA National Sportsmanship Awards this summer.
The Shoremen were recognized for their role in the story of Gettysburg senior Cory Weissman, who scored one point in his only collegiate start three years after suffering a stroke, while the Shorewomen were lauded for their outstanding work with their “adopt a teammate” program.
On February 12th, the Shoremen were playing at Gettysburg College during the Bullets’ Senior Day. Weissman had suffered his stroke after his freshman season, during which he had played sparingly and had not scored a point. While Weissman worked hard to return to the court and remained a part of the team in the ensuing seasons, he had not been cleared for full contact. The Shoremen’s head coach, Rob Nugent, and Gettysburg head coach George Petrie devised a plan to start Weissman on senior day. He was announced as a starter before the game, to loud applause from all fans and from both team benches. Immediately after Washington won the opening tip, Washington senior Kevin Breslin (Hagerstown, MD/St. Maria Goretti) handed Weissman the ball. Weissman promptly rolled the ball out of bounds and was subbed out of the game to another round of applause.
If the story ended there, it would have been inspirational enough. However, the Bullets built a large lead late in the game and Petrie made the decision to reinsert Weissman into the contest with less than a minute to play. In the final seconds of the game, Nugent called a timeout to instruct his players to foul Weissman on Gettysburg’s ensuing inbounds play. Washington assistant coach Robert Hughes quickly alerted Petrie of what the Shoremen intended to do so that Weissman would receive the inbounds pass.
After alerting the officials, Washington freshman Sean Flanigan (Wilmington, DE/St. Mark’s) lightly fouled Weissman on the ensuing inbounds as planned. Weissman went to the line and the entire gym held its collective breath in support. The first shot missed badly. Weissman took the second shot and – swish – nothing but net. The entire gym, both benches, and the players from both teams already in the game erupted in applause and tears. Weisman had scored his first – and only – collegiate point and the Washington College men’s basketball team reminded everyone that sportsmanship is alive and well. The story garnered international attention, including features on ESPN and National Public Radio.
The story behind the Shorewomen’s award, while not as headline-grabbing, is equally inspirational. Cindy Felton is a local Chestertown woman with special needs. Since joining the women’s basketball team on one of its team-bonding events at a local horse farm, she has practically become a member of the team. The Shorewomen’s head coach Megan Duran and assistant coach Mercedes Van Wagner pick Cindy up from her home and bring her to the team’s home games. During games, Cindy is as much a part of the team as any player or coach.
“Cindy is one of our biggest fans and we love having her in the locker room and on the bench at our games,” says sophomore Kelly Mitchell (Laurel, MD/Academy of the Holy Cross).
The team also includes Cindy in other team functions and sometimes brings her with them when they attend other Washington College athletic events. “You would think Cindy was a Washington College student the way she cheers the other teams on,” adds sophomore Michaila Hatty (Philadelphia, PA/Neumann-Goretti).
The Shorewomen have spent some time teaching Felton some basic basketball drills, which she has taken back to the Kent Center recreation basketball league she participates in.
Sophomore Liz Warkala (New York, NY/Marymount School of New York) notes that Cindy “benefits from being with our team and interacting with all of us because she is a part of the family,” but Cindy has no doubt had her own impact on the Shorewomen.
“Cindy is not the only person who benefits from her being a part of our family, notes Hatty. She has such a love for life that I think anyone can benefit from.”
The success of the Shorewomen’s work with Felton has prompted Duran to encourage other teams at the College to explore the possibility of starting their own “adopt a teammate” partnerships.