By Tony Castleberry
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Of all the people on a college campus who can lose perspective, athletes on the school’s sports teams rank pretty high on the list.
Many of them have their education paid for through scholarships. If they are members of the more popular football and basketball teams, they can attain a certain level of fame, acquiring exalted status among their peers.
In case any East Carolina men’s basketball players were starting to get settled on their high horses, Wednesday’s visit to the children’s hospital at Vidant Medical Center almost assuredly humbled them. For the third time during Pirate coach Jeff Lebo’s tenure, ECU’s players spent time with some young patients who, instead of getting ready for Christmas break, are, in some cases, fighting a daily life-and-death battle.
“You see something like this, it (makes) you realize how blessed you are,” Shamarr Bowden, a senior guard from Greensboro, said. “I realized that no matter what you’re going through, it could always be worse.
“It kind of puts you in someone else’s shoes,” Bowden said. “It shows you some things that you may have that they may not have and it makes you appreciative of them. … You think, ‘Man, I’m blessed to be alive and to be healthy and to be walking.’”
All 16 members of East Carolina’s team as well as Lebo, assistant coach Tim Craft and director of basketball operations Kyle Robinson were on hand.
They split up into three different groups — each group visiting children’s rooms — giving them signed team posters and even getting into the holiday spirit by singing a Christmas carol.
Bowden said he has family members who are dealing with medical issues and that Wednesday’s visit further hammered home the point that there is much more to life than basketball.
“I feel like all the years I’ve been playing, not to take away from basketball, but I feel like I’ve shifted my focus too much on basketball,” Bowden said. “Coming here, and in a couple of situations I’ve been going through recently, I’ve learned over the course of time that family, health, being alive … There’s no comparison between that and basketball.”
Lebo said taking time to help brighten a young person’s day is even more important now in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 elementary school students dead.
While acknowledging the effect his team can have on children’s lives, the third-year Pirate skipper encouraged others to reach out as well.
“I think it’s important for everybody to do it,” Lebo said. “Our guys are really fortunate in a lot of ways. They’re healthy and they’re strong and they get a chance to play a game that they love.
“To get a chance to see some kids who are going through some tough times is good for them, to put things in perspective.”
Contact Tony Castleberry at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9591 or follow @tcastleberrygdr on Twitter.
via The Daily Reflector.