Brown: Kobe’s Corner, his spirit is still very much with us – Main Line

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In his high school basketball preview appearing Sunday, December 4, Main Line Times & Suburban Sports Editor Bruce Adams begins with a look at the Lower Merion High School boys’ basketball team.
In his “tip off 2022-23” article, Adams states, “The Lower Merion High School boys’ basketball team has played in the PIAA state tournament each of the last 12 years — the longest current consecutive streak in Pennsylvania for boys’ basketball — so for the Aces, the team’s motto of ‘Tradition Never Graduates’ rings true.
“We try to keep the bar, the expectations, the same every year,” said Lower Merion boys’ basketball coach Gregg Downer, who has amassed three PIAA state championships and more than 600 wins during his three-plus decades with the Aces.
“The names change, but the ‘Next Man Up’ mentality never changes.”
As Adams highlights, “Last winter, the Aces, led by Central League MVP Demetrius Lilley, captured their second consecutive District 1 6A title – the first time Lower Merion had won back-to-back district championships since the 1940s. They also advanced to the PIAA 6A state semifinal for the second consecutive year.”
On Friday, two days ago, after my SJU class and a conference with an Air Force ROTC student, my husband invited me to join him, Don Di Julia, and two Hawks colleagues for lunch at Larry’s Steaks on 54th Street.
As I walked to Larry’s from my office, past Hagan Arena, naturally basketball came to mind, so when I popped into Larry’s for the tail-end of lunch, I was sort of primed for what followed.
My husband and his lunch buddies were immersed in conversation at their “regular” table, so before I sat down, I noticed three kids sitting in the booth next to my husband’s table.
Naturally, I said “hello” to them and did a little chit-chat. I looked around and saw that the seating area is called “Kobe’s Corner.” I mentioned to the very interested kids that I had known Kobe when I was teaching at Lower Merion.
One of the kids proudly told me that he wants to play basketball like Kobe. “That’s possible,” I heard myself say with a nod of agreement. Within minutes, two boys left and, as we were rising from our table and the men were talking, I resumed a quiet exchange with the one kid sitting by himself.
He told me that they are all seventh graders from Samuel Gompers and that they had a half-day because of professional development. I happened to ask him if they ever study mythology.
There is a background to this because last year at this time Hawks Point Guard/Forward Jordan Hall and I were working on an idea to develop a mythology club for the Gompers kids.
We got close, working with Michelle Thomas of Hawks Men’s Basketball, but Jordan got an offer which he could not refuse – playing for the Austin Spurs of the NBA G League.
Jordan’s departure from Hawk Hill put the mythology idea on hold – until I met this kid sitting in “Kobe’s Corner.”
In answer to my inquiry about Gompers’ interest in mythology, he told me “yes” that they were studying Greek mythology now.
At that moment, call it fate or the power of Kobe’s spirit, I looked at every photo, many, on display by Tony, Larry’s Steaks owner, and in every photo, Kobe was smiling.
His smile was consistent with the Kobe I knew at Lower Merion. In his senior year, he had stopped up to the third floor one day and leaned into my class to say “hello.”
He had noticed my habit of posting on the door photos and articles of LM Latin students from newspapers, etc. and asked me if I would post one of him.
Of course, I said that I would be proud to do so. And, there were many, many photos of Kobe available. On another afternoon, I had picked up my youngest son Michael from Merion Elementary School and came back to Lower Merion for a dance team meeting.
That put us near the main gym, so Michael asked me if we could go in to the practice. Well, I knew that Gregg had a rule, no visitors at practice, but he nodded to us as we stood at the doors so we went in and sat down.
Don’t you know that Kobe came over to Michael and greeted him with a big smile and asked him a few questions which Michael, age 6, happily answered. That sweet exchange has always stayed with me – and Michael, now 33 years old, still remembers how fun Kobe was with his nice smile.
So back to the kid at Larry’s sitting so contentedly surrounded by images of Kobe. I told him that I have a coloring book of the Greek Gods and Goddesses to give to the seventh grade kids, if they would be interested.
The kid told me that his mother is an Instructional Aid at Gompers but that I could get in touch with their Principal, Mr. De Luca. So mature and so right, I thought, that’s what I would do.
My husband quasi-heard what I was saying to the Gompers student and Jim directed me on-the-spot to describe to Don Di Julia what I had tried to do last year with Jordan Hall.
Of course, duh, Don knew exactly what the next steps should be – put me in touch with SJU Professor Aimee Terosky who knows Principal De Luca quite well and visits Gompers on a regular basis.
So the moral of this story? The mythology coloring book which Jordan Hall “pre-NBA” and I planned to use was illustrated by – yes, this is the truth – a Lower Merion Latin student whom I mentored several years ago.
So this means, once I connect with Aimee Terosky, that a copy of LM Alumna Vanessa Roser’s Greek Gods and Goddesses coloring book might soon be in the hands of the seventh-grade students – including the kids from Kobe’s Corner – for their enjoyment and edification.
And, it is no guess who is all smiles about this potential miraculous outcome.
A little bit about Samuel Gompers, K-8 Elementary School: “A Great Place To Be Somebody!”
Vision: To prepare Gompers students for the high school, college, and career of their choice.
Mission: Samuel Gompers Elementary School is a public school dedicated to the education of the whole child, focusing on developing the character, scholarship, and leadership potential of every child.
By 8th grade graduation, every student is expected to meet the following standards in these areas:
Character – words and actions demonstrate the school pledge and core values; Scholarship – proficiency on the PSSA for Reading, Math, and Science; Leadership – proven capacity to inspire, organize, and manage themselves and others.
Mary Brown, Adjunct Professor of Latin at Saint Joseph’s University, taught Latin in LMSD from 1974-2007 and was the start-up sponsor of the LMHS Dance team begun by Samantha Schneider, Class of 2008.
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