Friday, September 9, 2011

Wisconsin-GB Basketball Walk-on Shows Us What's Right About Sports

Who says hard work doesn't pay off?  For Wisconsin-Green Bay walk-on basketball player Eric Valentin, it meant getting the best news of his young lifetime.

On Tuesday, at a practice for The Phoenix basketball squad, coach Brian Wardle surprised his 5-foot-4 guard by offering him the team's last scholarship for the 2011-12 season.

It was an emotional moment for Valentin and a life long dream realized-- and it was all caught on video.


Valentin, who stands almost a full foot shorter than the average college basketball guard was rewarded by Wardle for the young man's "hard work and character," but not without some ribbing before he handed Valentin the official document. 

On the first day of his senior year, the coach singled out Valentin in front of the team and asked him "if he needed money or a job" because it seemed like his young charge was preoccupied during the practice.

It was then, Wardle said, "I found you a full-time job" and handed the scholarship papers to a unsuspecting Valentin.  The coach smiled and asked him, "Do you know what that is?"

As his teammates cheered, Valentin nodded his head and pulled his shirt up to shield his tearing eyes before he walked over and hugged his coach.

"It's a full-time scholarship, my man," said the coach.  "No one's earned it more than this guy right here."

The tiny guard with big ambitions walked up to Wardle last year, after transferring from a Florida community college, and said he wanted to play for his basketball team. 

Valentin, as a junior, only played in five games and averaged 1.2 points, but was a notable presence around the campus.

The Orlando native broke the Guinness World Record for most half-court shots made in a minute and was interviewed on ESPN, but the scholarship means more than the notoriety he gained for those moments.  For the ambitious Valentin, the full scholarship means validation for a job well done.

After all, he came off the bench to spark a win over Houston Baptist last season.

Valentin's feel-good story is a nice switch from the usual off-the-court antics which pass as sports news these days and, better yet, Valentin may not have to get that other job.

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