Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An Inspirational Tale of Hard Work Paying Off

I usually spend much of my time on here venting about problems I have with the Hawks or the BCS or the NCAA or Georgia Tech or....blah blah blah. I know, I'm a bitter sports fan -- well except when it comes to my Green Bay Packers. I thought now might be a good time to change it up a little and write briefly about something positive in the world of sports. A story that is really under the radar, and if you mention that to this person, they probably like it that way.

I want to talk about hard work. Dedication. Positive attitude. Handling pressure. I want to talk about my friend Patrick Ewing Jr. I received a text message from Patrick last Friday night, "I'm so excited bro." He had just found out he was being called up from the NBDL (in Sioux Falls no less) to join the New Orleans Hornets for the remainder of the season. You are probably thinking to yourself....big deal, the season is almost over, he may not even see any minutes. To look at this situation like that would be short sighted.

To know Patrick Ewing Jr. is to understand that hard work and refusing to fail is a lifestyle. This young man started his college career at Indiana University. After one season, he decided that wasn't the right fit for him. He decided to play where his legendary father played collegiate basketball - Georgetown University. Keep in mind, nobody expected Patrick Jr. to be as good as his father, but every time he put on that Hoyas jersey with his surname on the back, the expectations to perform at a high level were there, whether he wanted them or not. He accepted the challenge and became part of a special team that made it all the way to the Final Four in 2007.

In 2008 Ewing Jr. was drafted by Sacramento, traded to Houston and then to the Knicks. Yes, the New York Knicks, once again where his father becarme an NBA legend. Again, pressure for this young man? Of course. He wouldn't admit it, but it was there. Patrick showed up everyday, worked hard and did his best. It wasn't good enough for the Knicks and they decided to cut him right before the start of the 2008 season began. Patrick could have hung his head, given up, looked for something else to do with his life. Instead he decided to keep pushing, chasing a dream to play in the NBA just like his father. The pressure continued to mount.

Fastforward to 2008, Ewing Jr. signs with an NBDL team in Reno, Nevada. In the Spring of 2009, Patrick suffers a Grade 1 MCL sprain. He is done for the season. Again, Patrick could have hung his head, given up, looked for something else to do with his life. Instead, he spends almost a year rehabilitating his knee and his game.

Summer of 2010: Patrick gets invited to play on the summer league teams for the Knicks and Magic. The Knicks like the new and improved Ewing Jr. and invite him to their Fall camp. There is an old expression, "I've seen this movie before. I know how it ends." Ewing Jr. unfortunately got cut right before the start of the season by the Knicks for a 2nd time. That would be it for me. I would probably just say 'screw it' and look to do something else with my life. Coaching. Broadcasting. Work for an agent. Anything but putting on a basketball jersey. If you think that's what Patrick don't know Patrick. Showing his humility and dedication to the game he loves, he accepted another roster spot back in Reno in the NBDL.

As if things couldn't get more frustrating, this past January Patrick was traded (exiled seems more appropriate) to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As John McEnroe famously said, "YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!" To go from potentially earning a spot on the storied New York Knicks to now playing basketball in South Dakota?!? Guess how Patrick handled this? Yep....with the right attitude, remaining as dedicated as ever to the game. Since being traded, Ewing Jr. averaged 22 ppg and 11 rebounds for Sioux Falls.

And then it happened. The phone call he was waiting for. After all these years of climbing the mountain, the rehab, the last minute cuts before seasons began anew, the cold nights in South Dakota...for what? For this. To receive a phone call from the New Orleans Hornets telling him he was joining there team, if only for a few weeks, validated his hard work. This call wasn't about getting a chance to play - it was about proving to himself he did it the right way. He had the right attitude. I could not be happier for my friend. He is an inspiration for anyone that doubts their personal journey . There is an old proverb, "A great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do." Words Patrick Ewing Jr. lives by everyday...


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