PRINCESS ANNE — The University of Maryland Eastern Shore men’s basketball team has not been on the court competing against other teams during the 2020-21 season, but the team has been able to grow off the court by meeting with numerous guests via Zoom.
Head coach Jason Crafton calls the sessions the “Zoom Leadership Series” as the Hawks have heard from speakers throughout the school year. The topics have ranged from social justice to mental health for the team as they dealt with their year away from competition.
“We have an incredible group of guys that have been through a lot this past year,” Crafton said. “We are still in the early stages of a massive program rebuild and the effects of the pandemic have brought additional challenges that required our staff to be extra creative, so this leadership series has been huge for us.”
Over the course of the school year, the Hawks have received encouraging words from a variety of people within the basketball world. The most recognizable speaker was NBA champion Kyle Lowry, who spoke with the team about the importance of staying focused on your goals and taking advantage of your opportunities.
“Kyle has had an amazing journey, we've stayed close and I am so proud of what he's accomplished,” Crafton said. “I appreciate his thoughtful words and time and our guys truly appreciated it as well.”
“What I got from Kyle Lowry the most was him talking about the grind that it takes every day to get better,” junior guard Donchevell Nugent (Newburgh, New York) said. “I know everybody is trying to get to the next level so you have to outshine and outwork a lot of people get where Kyle is at.”
Other speakers have included former WNBA player and current Sacramento Kings Assistant Coach Lindsey Harding, current NBA player Norvel Pelle, and former McDonald's All-American and Villanova star Jason Fraser.
“I remember Jason (Fraser) giving us advice about how we can’t use this time of not playing as an excuse, but to grow and build chemistry as a team,” sophomore guard Kevon Voyles (Berlin, Maryland) said. “This series has helped us grow a lot because we have learned some much about ourselves through adversity that will benefit us next year.”
The Shore will also be participating in a collaboration with Team 100 which is a mental wellness company that was co-founded by former NBA player Alvin Williams. The squad will do sessions covering mental health and financial education to close out the semester.
“So many people struggle with mental health and have trouble finding someone to talk to,” junior forward Nathaniel Pollard, Jr. (Richmond, Virginia) said. “These sessions will help us to see a different point of view of why it is important to open up to someone to ease your mind and your life.”
“I'm thankful for all of the great speakers from my basketball network that have joined this dynamic leadership series,” Crafton said. “Each session has been an incredible learning experience and has impacted our players in a special way!”