WARNER ROBINS -- Mercer basketball players visited children Thursday at the Nola Brantley Library to share some of their skills and values that helped them upset Duke in the men’s NCAA basketball tournament in March.
As part of a summer reading program, players John Mosser, T.J. Hallice, Phillip Leonard and James Bento presented the children’s book “Dino Basketball,” playfully changing the names of the teams mentioned in the story to “Bears” and “Blue Devils.”
The story is about the unexpected victory of an underdog team of dinosaurs in the March Madness tournament. Perhaps appropriately, the reading came the morning after Mercer captured an ESPY Award for Best Upset.
The players talked with nine children about the importance of teamwork, dedication, practicing on your own, making good grades, staying healthy, balancing work with play, respect and having good character.
Asked by one of the youngsters how to deal with nervousness before a game, Hallice shared what his father told him.
“My dad always told me growing up that being nervous means you’re ready,” he said. “You should use it because being nervous is part of the game. It kind of gets you going. ... I’ve always been taught that being nervous is a good thing. It means you’re doing something right.”
Lakota Gleason, 8, of Bonaire, plays Upward Basketball, a recreation program run in churches across the country. He wanted to know how early the players had to wake up in the morning and if any of them could dunk a ball.
The players said they’ve made a couple of dunks, and sometimes they must wake up as early as 6 a.m.
What did they take away from the session?
“I learned about never (giving) up and be nice to other basketball players and listen very well,” Gleason said.
Hallice told the children to be polite, respect their elders and make studying a top priority.
“If you get D’s, you can’t play,” Hallice said. “If you get C’s, you’re on the border. ... Coaches are always telling us strive for A’s, but not everyone is an A student. So if you get B’s that’s all right. Just do your best.”
The players told the children that they couldn’t have beat Duke without teamwork.
“Teamwork is very important,” Mosser said. “(Duke) might have the better talent. ... They have better players, maybe, but to beat them we have to have a better team.”
It was all what Amanda Cosner, the Warner Robins library employee who invited the team in, wanted the children to hear.
“I wanted to have them because of what an encouragement they are to the kids,” Cosner said. “The hard work and the teamwork pays off.”
To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4382.