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Ed Sheffey, whose promising basketball career was ended in two unrelated auto incidents, died Wednesday at George Washington University Hospital fighting a recurrence of cancer.
Sheffey, 37, grew up in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington DC, where he was an honorable mention All-Met selection in 1994-95. He opted for a fifth year at Oak Hill Academy, averaging 13 points a game and attracting scholarship interest from California, Georgia, Clemson, and Minnesota. Instead, he enrolled at Georgetown, where as a freshman in the fall of 1996 he replaced Allen Iverson in the starting backcourt alongside returning sophomore Victor Page.
Sheffey started 29 of 30 games as a Georgetown freshman, with the only non-start being a game where coach John Thompson started senior walk-on guard Brendan Gaughan in Gaughan's home town of Las Vegas. Despite a dominant season by Page, Sheffey finished second on the team in scoring (8.7 ppg), with eight games in double figures and a team high 104 assists. Sheffey's best game that season was an 18 point effort at St. John's.
With the ill-advised move by Victor Page to pursue a pro basketball career, Sheffey appeared to be the Hoyas' rising backcourt star. In the morning of Aug. 21, 1997, a week before the return of students to campus, Sheffey was observed by police driving 97 mpg in a 40 mpg zone of Landover Road. Sheffey was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana, resisting arrest, fleeing and eluding a police officer, driving without a license, reckless and negligent driving, and speeding. The misdemeanor charges were later dropped to reckless driving and speeding, and Sheffey completed 100 hours of community service.
At the time of the arrest, Sheffey was promptly suspended and later dismissed from the team. It was the first arrest of a Georgetown basketball player in the Thompson era, and a visible stumble for the program--four days earlier, a front page article in the Washington Post publicly questioned the academic direction of the University's flagship program. Sheffey was one of 11 players between 1994 and 1998 that transferred or left Georgetown early, eight of whom were guards.
Following Georgetown, Sheffey did not transfer to a Division I school, suggesting academics may have been an issue. Instead, he found himself at New Mexico Junior College, an open admissions school in Hobbs, NM, that was seen as a stepping stone to attending New Mexico State. Again, an auto incident played a tragic role.
On Jan. 16, 1998, one day after his first class at the college, Sheffey was in a pickup truck driven by a fellow teammate, Cory Reed, when Reed's truck failed to negotiate a curve in a road east of El Paso, TX. Sheffey was thrown from the truck, rendering him comatose for more than a week in an El Paso hospital.
"Mr. Sheffey has what we call a closed-head injury," a nurse told Barker Davis of the Washington Times. "In a closed-head injury, there isn't an actual laceration on the head, but blunt-force impact causes the brain to take quite a beating. Neurologically, you come back very slowly from such an injury. We're getting some responses from Eddie, and his vital signs are stable, but he still hasn't spoken."
Sheffey recovered from his injuries and eventually transferred to Norfolk State in 1999, where head coach Wil Jones offered him a scholarship.
'We're very excited about Ed Sheffey joining our program," Jones told the 1999 Blue Ribbon Yearbook. "He's been away from the game for a while, but the doctors have given him the green light to play and I think he's really going to help us. He's a point guard who knows how to play the game." Norfolk State played Georgetown four times from 2001 to 2004, but Sheffey was nowhere to be found. He never made the Norfolk State roster that fall, and dropped off the sports radar thereafter.
Sheffey moved back to Washington, where he took a job in the procurement division of the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2012, according to his Facebook page, Sheffey underwent four sessions of chemotherapy for cancer, and doctors declared him in remission in late 2013. By May of this year, Sheffey was readmitted to the hospital.
"My doctors and I thought that my previous set of chemotherapy treatments would be my last but my grandmother always told me 'If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans'", Sheffey wrote. "Now I'm on to my 5th regimen but I ain't got no worries because I've been placed it in His hands."
In a Father's Day post that was among his last entries to the site, he wrote: "I implore all fathers who aren't living up to their responsibility to reevaluate yourselves and begin to treasure the precious gift that has been bestowed upon you. Being the best Dad I can can possibly be is the single most important aspect of my life."
Ed Sheffey is survived by his seven year old son. Services are pending.
From the Washington Post, the University of Maryland has announced that it will guarantee that full and partial scholarship student-athletes be able to attend until they graduate.
"Beginning in November of 2014-15, ‘The Maryland Way Guarantee’ will provide all incoming student-athletes with a multi-year scholarship guarantee," read a university release. "Pursuant to this program, should a student-athlete exhaust his or her eligibility prior to graduating, Maryland will guarantee his or her aid will continue through graduation. If a student-athlete is injured and unable to compete, Maryland will guarantee his or her aid will continue through graduation. Additionally, Maryland will provide tuition, books and fees for any student-athlete who leaves the institution in good academic standing and returns to complete his or her degree."
"If it’s the right thing for you to leave to play professionally, to play with either our national teams or pursue a career, we’re going to be committed. We want you back to finish your degree at Maryland, not at some junior college somewhere else," said soccer coach Sasho Cirovski.
An estimate for the number of student-athletes that would use the option was not provided. The school reports that 86 percent of its athletes graduate, based on its GSR score from the NCAA.
Sometimes, it's the messenger.
Earlier this summer, when news of the Big Ten-Big East challenge series for 2015-16 was announced, the chance of Georgetown and Maryland playing in the rotation was discussed. But when ESPN's Andy Katz reported Monday that there was "a chance" the teams could meet, there was a spike in Internet chatter.
Georgetown and Maryland have met just three times in the last 35 years, but not in a regular season series since the 1979-80 season. However, the challenge series will rotate opponents, so if the game is simply a one-off, it doesn't solve the need for an annual series between the schools.
Former Georgetown 2015 verbal commitment Noah Dickerson has verballed to Florida, per CBS Sports.com
"Coach [Billy] Donovan is a great coach," Dickerson said. "He develops players, and he has great character. That's one thing I love about him. He's a great person outside of a coach."
With three new teams in the big east, it may be understandable that not everyone knows each other. After all, some Big East fans wouldn't know the Cintas Center (Xavier) from CenturyLink Center (Creighton). But it was still surprising to see SB Nation's Big East Coast Bias blog rank Verizon Center 11th of 12 arenas because, well, it's hard to get to.
"Its capacity is no doubt large, and when the Hoyas are great, their crowd is as well," writes Christopher Novak. "But when they are not, the place looks desolate and I'm sure it can be very inconvenient to get to, with it being smack dab in the center of Washington, D.C."
Verizon Center is at the confluence of three Metro rail lines (Red, Yellow, Green), with the other three lines (Blue, Orange, Silver) just two blocks west at Metro Center. This is not the era of Capital Centre, after all.
The blog's rating of the arenas:
- Madison Square Garden (St. John's)
- Hinkle Fieldhouse (Butler)
- Cintas Center (Xavier)
- The Pavilion (Villanova)
- CenturyLink Center (Creighton)
- Carnesecca Arena (St. John's)
- BMO Harris Bradley Center (Marquette)
- Dunkin Donuts Center (Providence)
- Wells Fargo Center (Villanova)
- Prudential Center (Seton Hall)
- Verizon Center (Georgetown)
- Allstate Arena (DePaul)
Over the course of the last year, officials at Georgetown University have engaged in a series of lectures and exercises known as "Designing The Future(s) of the University". It's an interesting often provocative exercise that attempts to take on an industry to whom inertia is often a birthright (namely, academia) and ask the kind of questions businesses and non-profits ask regularly, namely, where do we want this place to be in 25 years?
Given the topic, and the participants, the discussions can be pedagogical and, well, a little dry.
"To encourage this type of coaching, universities need to create learning spaces that support meaningful student-faculty collaboration, including design labs and nuanced, interactive online platforms. Panelists identified the distinct value of the university in this new ecosystem of learning—its physicality, the availability of experts—which will be critical in defining the path ahead."
(As I said, dry.)
But many of these same questions, a little more adventurously, can be asked about athletics at Georgetown, or at any college or university. More so than any time in the past century, education is ripe for systemic change, perhaps unseen tioday, and with it, it may affect the way universities look at intercollegiate athletics as part of that environment. Add this uncertainty with the tremors facing the NCAA and how it manages a increasingly professionalized climate of competition, and you have the ingredients for a bumpy ride for college sports over the next quarter century.
Georgetown has never been an easy fit in college sports. It's a school that is best known for basketball, but it is not a basketball school. Its breadth of programs is more akin to the Ivy League than the Big 12, but produces more NBA talent than schools twice its size or its budget. And almost all of this has been built up over just 35 years--not by good fortune, by some shrewd planning that sought, and succeeded in doing what few schools outside of Stanford, Duke, and Notre Dame have done--build an national athletic brand without sacrificing its academic reputation.
Certainly, things can change suddenly. They have before.
More on the subject at The Third Rail blog.
As always, prior stories over this past week or the last 15+ years of coverage can be found at the News Archive pages, including recaps of all prior games over the season. It's a good way to keep up to date if you've visit the site less frequently. The last 10 stories:
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