Behind the Mic: “The Best ‘Recruit’ of the Year”

Say the word “recruit” or “recruiting” in the Lehigh Valley and get ready for an argument. Whether it’s football, basketball, or wrestling (and even baseball a few years ago), the term riles up athletic directors, coaches, athletes, and parents. Everyone has an opinion on what should determine the eligibility of any student who “transferred” or was “recruited” to another school for athletic reasons. I will leave this volatile subject up to the powers-to-be and I wish them well in finding a solution, if there is one to be found.

I want to talk about the best use of “recruiting” I have seen in my many years of doing high school sports. It came in the final game of the season for the Nazareth Blue Eagles basketball team when they played in their rivalry game against Northampton. For that last game, they added a player to their roster, not only to help them win, but in a way, to help all of us to understand the value of athletics and the value of working with young people.

Joe Arndt, the Nazareth coach, decided to add Devon Roe to his roster. Devon had tried out for the team in the fall, but despite all the encouragement he got from his fellow teammates, he just could not crack the roster.

You see, Devon Roe is a special-needs student who was supposed to be in a wheelchair by the time he was a teenager. However, Devon is not in a wheelchair and spent this past season serving as the Nazareth manager for the basketball team. He dutifully fulfilled his responsibilities for the first 20 games. Devon has many disorders including autism and OCD.

Friday was Senior Night and Coach Arndt felt it would be the perfect opportunity to do some “recruiting” of his own. He “recruited” Devon. Devon wore number 32 and was placed in the starting lineup. There were no protests from Northampton or their coach, Coy Stampone, who, ironically, was an assistant to Coach Arndt for many years. The District XI and the PIAA would not get involved in this case.

Devon led his team onto the floor for warm-ups, received a resounding standing ovation from the fans when he was introduced as a member of the starting lineup, and caught the opening tap. He quickly left the floor. He would re-enter the contest for the final six seconds.

His mother spent most of the day in tears and cried throughout the night. She has watched Devon overcome so much adversity in his life. He participates in the Nazareth job-study program and she sends him off to work at Petco and Giant a few days a week. She has had, I’m sure, many proud moments with her son, but Friday night was certainly a special one.

Congratulations to the coaches, the administration, and especially the players for teaching all of us a valuable lesson about rewarding hard work, teamwork, and compassion. And I offer special congratulations to Devon. He did what the coach asked, did not complain about playing time, and basked in the victory of his teammates.

This is the type of player every coach should recruit. It would help all of us!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. I notice that it always takes me some time to get into the Olympics and this year is no exception. Having grown up during the Cold War, where we spent Health Class in high school learning to build a bomb shelter and going through our decision to boycott the Russian Olympics during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, I feel some resentment toward Putin as I watch him. I’m sure I will get over it. By the end of this week, I’ll be chanting, “USA! USA!” along with the rest of you.
2. By the way, there are 12 more events (98 in all) than there were at Vancouver.
3. Sochi this time of the year has an average temperature of 43 degrees making this the warmest site for a Winter Games. The Super Bowl in cold weather; the Winter Olympics in warm weather? Someone will somehow correlate this to global warming!
4. I watched the final Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Thursday. It was quite good and Jay was very emotional. I have always been a Letterman fan and never found Leno to be all that funny. Ironically, I saw him at the Sands a few months back and his stand-up routine was hilarious. He will now do more of that and I would certainly go to see him.
5. The Beatles 50-year anniversary of their appearance in America was, also, quite good. Ringo and Paul McCartney were at their best. The Ed Sullivan clips brought back memories of watching them that night. I think everybody watched. I was a senior in high school. (And I’m feeling quite old right now! Time for a nap.)