When Missing Your Free Throws is a Good Thing

Here is a great feel-good story out of Milwaukee:

Milwaukee Madison senior Johntell Franklin, who lost his mother, Carlitha, to cancer on Saturday, Feb. 7, decided he wanted to play in that night’s game against DeKalb (Ill.) High School after previously indicating he would sit out.

He arrived at the gym in the second quarter, but Franklin’s name was not in the scorebook because his coach, Aaron Womack Jr., didn’t expect him to be there.

Rules dictated Womack would have to be assessed a technical, but he was prepared to put Franklin in the game anyway. DeKalb coach Dave Rohlman and his players knew of the situation, and told the referees they did not want the call.

The referees had no choice. But Rohlman did.

“I gathered my kids and said, ‘Who wants to take these free throws?'” Rohlman said, recounting the game to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Darius McNeal put up his hand. I said, ‘You realize you’re going to miss, right?’ He nodded his head.”

McNeal, a senior point guard, went to the line. The Milwaukee Madison players stayed by their bench, waiting for the free throws. Instead of seeing the ball go through the net, they saw the ball on the court, rolling over the end line.

“I turned around and saw the ref pick up the ball and hand it back to the player,” Womack said in the Journal Sentinel. “And then [McNeal] did the same thing again.”

Said Rohlman: “Darius set up for a regular free throw, but he only shot it two or three feet in front of him. It bounced once or twice and just rolled past the basket.”

“I did it for the guy who lost his mom,” McNeal told the newspaper. “It was the right thing to do.”

Update: Here is the video report (length: 6:24).

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  1. karen says:

    Ray, keeping in mind the adage “it is not whether you win or lose, but how you play”, still I must ask, who won the game?

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    Karen – Madison ended up winning the game by 15 points, so the two missed free throws didn’t really make a difference in the outcome. Either way, both teams felt great about the decision and after the game shared a pizza dinner, “four kids to a pizza, two Madison kids and two DeKalb kids,” Womack told the Journal Sentinel. (“And now you know the rest of the story” – in my best Paul Harvey voice.)

  3. Dave Jaspers says:

    What a powerful example of sportsmanship, compassion, and love. Thanks for sharing this! May more of our coaches, athletes, and parents embrace this kind of character development.

  4. Ray Fowler says:

    Dave – I agree. This is where sports and coaches can really make a difference in a young person’s life. None of those kids will ever forget that game.

  5. MaryBeth Fleming says:

    I thought you might like to hear about this story. Recently one of my son’s friends was hit head on on his way into school. He did nothing wrong the other driver (a 50 yr. gentleman) suffered a medical emergency and passed out crossing the centerline and hitting him. That night the varsity basketball team, which my son and his friend were on, was to play against Shepherd a very good bball team. Our team had been struggling all year with injuries etc and we knew before that day that it would be a tough game. We never dreamed how tough. The Shepherd team heard about the accident and the game was postponed until the next Thursday. The young basketball player was critically injured and in a medically induced coma. Thursday came and when we entered the gym there were the Shepherd fans dressed in our school colors with the teen’s name and number on their shirts. The players on the team wore sweatbands with his name and number to match our teams. We played great we lead for a lot of the game which was a miracle. In the previous game we lost by 20. Shepherd picked up their game a lot (they are good) and we lost by 9. However, I feel that the team looked at it as a win. It felt like their teammate was sitting there routing them on. All I can say is that the Shepherd school is a classy school and this was a game we will never forget. We have pictures of our student section and their student section standing shoulder to should under a sign for the player and wearing his name and number proudly.

  6. Ray Fowler says:

    MaryBeth – Wow, that’s another great story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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