If there is one thing that I have learned in my years of playing sports it is that God will make things happen when he sees fit. When my junior career of wheelchair of wheelchair basketball was coming to an end, I was being recruited by three schools. They were UW-Whitewater, Southwest State University and Southern Illinois. I accepted two of the three on their invitation of coming for a school visit. First one I went to was UW-Whitewater. My mom and cousin, Kris, took me on that visit and it was lots of fun. I got to tour the campus, talk with other players on the team and even got to practice a bit with them. Talking with the then coach, Mike Frogley, I learned that College was going to be way different than high school. My high school grades were not the best so it was going to take a pretty good senior year in high school to get my grades good enough. Coach Frogley and I talked about that and what support there was for students coming in with a shaky high school career. I met a lot of great people and thought that was going to be my one and only visit.
But then my buddy Ryan had gone on a visit to Southwest State University and said I had to go visit. So my mom and then Step-Dad went on the eight and half hour journey to Marshall, MN. It is in the middle of no-where and where-are-we-vil. I was told a lot about the coach before we went from my buddy. We got there and the first thing the coach told me was, we are glad to have you here. This is going to be your home for the next four to five years. I was kind of surprised yet flattered. The coach’s name was Lew Shaver. He was one of the best wheelchair basketball coaches in the world then and still is. He brought me and my parents on a tour of the school. We went to visit the head of the Business Admin school and the head of the Teaching school. At the time, the only thing I was worried about was getting the gym and showing him what I could do. It was a long process getting to the gym. After checking out the academics part we did lunch and then he took me into his office and we talked. We talked about everything from school to family to faith and then basketball. The first thing that came to mind was Vince Lombardi. He then asked if I wanted my parents to come into the gym with us. I said, yeah that would be great. He had me run some drills. Push my chair up and down the court. Then he asked me to just shoot. I was thinking, God please help this ball go in to the basket, I really need this. He guided every shot as I remember only missing one or two within the three point line and then only missing about four from three point range. I shot a lot of shots and I was starting to get tired but pushed through because I knew just how important it was that I show coach that I could make shots no matter how tired I was. I remember telling my mom, God helped me through that one. So we had one last meeting with Coach Shaver and he was impressed with my shooting and my overall basketball skills. He said one thing that has stuck with me forever. Don’t decide now. Go home, talk it over with your parents and figure out if coming here is the right thing for you. We want you and will work with you to get everything set on the academic end.
It was the hardest decision of my life to date. When I got home there was a letter of interest from Southern Illinois. So now, three schools were in the mix. I was flattered beyond words. I talked to everyone. Friends, family, girlfriend, and had lots of conversations with the big guy, God. I knew I had already asked him to help me in the gym shooting that day but I figured one more request that would affect the rest of my life was not out of line.
It was getting close to the day that I had to decide. My buddy Ryan had already committed to SSU and was asking me pretty much every day what I was going to do. I went to bed after school on a Thursday. I know this because it was a Friday that I had to let the coaches know what my plans were. I said a prayer before going to bed. Please God, guide me in this decision. Please send me to the best place for me. I know you already know where I am going but this decision is weighing heavy on my mind. I said thank you for everything that you have already given me, said the Our Father and had a life changing dream.
I was playing basketball and all I knew was that it was in front of a crowd. I was enjoying that dream and was content with it. However, while I was dreaming, all of a sudden I heard a voice. You asked and I will guide you, fear not this is the best place for you, for now. All of a sudden I was in the gym at Southwest State University. I committed to SSU and had one of the best years of basketball I have ever played in my life. As a freshman, I started and made the list for top scores in the school’s history for freshman. However, there was one game that stood out; the 1994 National Collegiate Championship game against Southern Illinois. We should have beaten them by ten. However, I went 1 for 17. Never in my life had I shot that bad and never did again. My coach told me then and years later that he never felt worse for one of his players. I felt pretty bad too. But years later I realized something. God’s gift wasn’t a college championship or scoring points it was showing me that I could do it. He showed me that I could go to college, be successful and make something of myself. It was the journey to that point that mattered. God is great and will lead you down the right road, all you have to do ask. God bless you and may you have the chance to get to know him and let him lead you.