ST. LOUIS -- The sportsmanship that coach Rob Nugent and his Washington College basketball players demonstrated last season at Gettysburg – on the Bullets' Senior Day – is a reminder that winning goes beyond the scoreboard. Nugent and his 2011-12 Shoremen were saluted earlier this month at the National Sportsmanship Awards. Sal Schittino and Adam Naymick, seniors on last year's club, accepted the award for their coach and teammates.
The Shoremen and Nugent were recognized for their role in the inspirational story of Cory Weissman, a Gettysburg player who suffered a stroke as a freshman and returned to score his only point as a collegian in his final home game. It was Feb. 11, 2012, and Gettysburg's opponent was Washington.
While Weissman had worked hard to return to the court in the years following his stroke and remained a part of the team, he had not been medically cleared for full contact. Nugent and Gettysburg head coach George Petrie agreed on a plan to start Weissman on Senior Day. He was announced as a starter before the game, to loud applause from all fans and from both team benches.
Immediately after Washington won the opening tip-off, Washington's all-conference senior guard Kevin Breslin handed the ball to Weissman. As scripted, Weissman rolled the ball out of bounds and was substituted out of the game – to another round of applause.
If the story ended there, it would have been inspirational enough.
However, in the final minute, when it was clear that the Bullets would not lose their double-digit lead, Petrie put Weissman back into the game. Nugent called time-out with 19 seconds remaining and instructed his players to foul Weissman on Gettysburg's ensuing inbounds play. Washington's assistant coach at the time, Robert Hughes, quickly alerted Petrie to what the Shoremen intended to do so that Weissman would receive the inbounds pass.
After letting the officials know what was going on, Shore freshman Sean Flanigan lightly fouled Weissman – tugged on his jersey – on the inbounds as planned, sending Weissman to the free-throw line. He missed the first shot, but got nothing but net on the second shot. Everyone in the gym was on their feet, a symphony of applause for both Weissman and the Shoremen.
The story garnered widespread attention, including features on ESPN and National Public Radio. A movie version of Weissman's story – titled “1,000 to 1: The Cory Weissman Story,” starring David Henrie and Beau Bridges – finished filming in Gettysburg last month and is currently in post-production. Nugent plays himself in the film.
Nugent was unable to attend the National Sportsmanship Awards presentation, which was held in St. Louis on Nov. 17 – the same day as Washington's home opener of the new season. A special pre-taped message from Nugent was played at the ceremony, and Schittino and Naymick stood in for their coach.
Produced annually by the St. Louis Sports Commission, the National Sportsmanship Awards event showcases extraordinary examples of class and character by athletes, coaches and sports personalities from across the country. Representing all levels of sports – professional, college, high school and youth – award recipients are recognized for their integrity, selflessness, kindness and perseverance. For more, see www.stlsports.org.
What has been portrayed as the most meaningful and inspiring night in sports will now be known as The Musial Awards. During the Nov. 17 ceremony, the St. Louis Sports Commission announced that the National Sportsmanship Awards were being renamed in honor of St. Louis sports icon and Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial. Nugent and his 2011-12 team were among the nine honorees to receive the first “Musials.”