We cheer like crazy each winter when the Knights are hooping it up on the Hammermill hardwood, but we don't often get a chance to sing their praises post-graduation. So I'm taking advantage of that rare opportunity to heap kudos at two Gannon grads, one of them a former Knight ballplayer.
My 5-year-old daughter participated this summer at the Penn State-Behrend Little Dribblers basketball camp. I was apprehensive if she'd feel pressure to fill the basketball shoes of her ultra-successful father. OK, that's not completely true. I was apprehensive but it was because she'd never played the game before outside of us dribbling in the driveway and launching a few shots on her 6-foot hoop. I knew she'd be nervous with 100 energy-filled kids screaming inside a strange gymnasium. Plus what if her coach was too serious, overly emotional, pushy, insensitive, inattentive, or all of the above?
Fortunately for her and the about 40 other kids in the 4-5 age division, brothers Rand and Aaron Garrity were the lead counselors. I didn't take long to see that basketball is the Garritys' passion and teaching school kids is their full-time profession. For all four days of the camp, the Garritys showed patience and enthusiasm. Knowing that Rand is an assistant coach at Behrend and Aaron has coached at Fairview, I thought to myself, "How many basketball camps have these guys worked in their life?" I bet they've spent hundreds if not thousands of hours in unair-conditioned gymnasiums throughout Erie County. But each day for every drill Rand and Aaron greeted the kids like the 30-somethings were the ones who couldn't wait to play games.
Plus, the Garritys were wildly entertaining -- like a blend of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and basketball. When Rand would teach the kids their defensive stance, Aaron would stand on his toes with his hands stretched to the ceiling and cry out, "Is this right, coach?" Rand would correct him that your knees should be bent, your butt down, and your hands in front of you. Then Rand would show the kids how to keep their feet a little more than shoulder width apart. Aaron would nearly do a split and call out again, "Is this right, coach?" with his brother correcting him.
If the Garritys had been paid by the high five, the smile, or every time they said "good job" or "way to go," they'd be millionaries. And they were really getting through to the kids, too. My daughter was eager to show up early every day to run through the drills. And though the camp ended nearly a month ago, she still knows the right form for a chest pass. When I say "Behrend!", she slaps the ground and shouts, "I love defense!" just as the Garritys taught her at camp. (She also screams out, "I love daylillies!" every time she sees that flower, but I don't blame Rand and Aaron for that.)
You know that Aaron is a Gannon alum because he played for several successful Gannon teams from 1996-2001, but you might not know that Rand also attended GU in the 1990s. And now you know that both of them deserve the loudest of cheers from the Gannon faithful.