Father's Day may a few months away but an inspiring father-son story has emerged from the NCAA basketball tournament that rivals any game played on a court.
Florida Gulf Coast University, which knocked heavily favored Georgetown and San Diego State out of the tournament last weekend, has become everybody's favorite underdog in this year's playoffs. Last Friday afternoon, few people outside of Southwest Florida - Charles Barkley included - even knew that the school was located in Fort Myers.
After the win over Georgetown in the NCAA first round Friday, people quickly learned where the school was located and by Sunday night's second upset win of San Diego State, the school was a chatroom and trivia sensation. In an ESPN interview, Coach Andy Enfield pointed out that the school even has a lakefront beach on campus.
Enfield's background in player development at Florida State as well as in the NBA is well documented. Responsible for sharpening player skills on this year's FGCU team, Enfield's name is sure to surface in the future any time a major college coaching vacancy opens up.
Brett Comer is one of Enfield's finest projects, having matured into a premier point guard. A true passing wizard, Comer is the maestro directing the Eagles' free-style offense and this year, he ranked 17th nationally in assists. In the two upset wins last weekend, he dished out a remarkable 24 assists.
Comer and his mates have even inspired a new rap video, giving Fort Myers a new nickname - Dunk City - which has been added to its web site. One of the signature highlight plays thus far in the tournament is Comer's one-handed flip pass that resulted in an alley-oop dunk against Georgetown.
While he's had to work hard to develop his skills on the court, Comer has had to work even harder on his emotions after losing his father to lung cancer just over three years ago. Comer's father coached him and watched him grow into a fine athlete at Winter Park High School near Orlando.
After such a devastating loss, Comer credits the many hours spent with teammates and coaches for helping him work through the anger and sadness to clear his head. A key mentor for Comer has been the FGCU assistant coach Kevin Norris who knows how emotionally devastating it can be to lose a parent since he lost his father to kidney failure when he was a high school senior.
One piece of advice that Norris imparted to Comer is to "go harder" when he thought of his father. To honor his dad, Comer had his father's name, birthday and the date of his death tattooed on his right arm. There's also this message:
Happiness is not something ready made
It comes from your own actions
You may not control all the events that happen to you
But you can decide not to be reduced by them
Love never hate; forgive but never forget
Live the life you've dreamed to the fullest
- Pursuit of Happiness
Before the tipoff to every game, Comer slaps at his right arm, a reminder for him to go harder for his dad. Like the Eagles' remarkable run, Comer's story is one that will endure and continue to inspire no matter what the outcome of a mere game.
By Jim Zbick