TIVERTON — University of Rhode Island basketball players had plenty of excuses to sleep in rather than keep their early morning date with young friends at Tiverton’s Pocasset School on a recent Wednesday.
A few hours earlier, at 2 a.m., they had touched down at Green State Airport airport after an exhausting road win at St. Louis — the latest victory in what has been a most successful season so far.
“They closed out the win and hours later, they were at Pocasset, full of energy and excitement for the kids.” said Jocelyn Sherman, president of the Pocasset Parent Teacher Organization and, with her husband, a URI basketball season ticket holder.
Not only did they keep their Pocasset promise, the entire team — and some of the cheerleaders — were on hand bright and early to form a “high-five tunnel” to greet students as they entered the gym for a morning assembly.
And they came bearing gifts — the cheerleaders handed out URI winter hats to all and players handed out t-shirts and mini basketballs. Each student received two vouchers, each voucher being good for one youth ticket and one adult ticket to two Home games, Jan 13 vs St. Bonaventure and Jan 27 against Duquesne.
Once the students had taken their seats, the URI seniors shared their words of encouragement.
EC Matthews, Jared Terrell, Stanford Robinson and Andre Berry spoke at the assembly.
When they first visited Pocasset last year, the message was about the need to never bully one another.
This time they spoke of the importance of working hard, getting good grades, setting goals and believing in yourself..
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. You can be anything that you want to be. Believe in yourself,” Robinson said.
Rhode Island native (Classical High School) Will Leviton, a junior on the Rams team, showed off some dance moves made famous on the sidelines during the NCAA tournament March Madness.
Later, some of the players showed off their dunk skills to loud applause. Others hoisted a few Pocasset students high to help them score a few first-ever dunks of their own.
“They are an outstanding and respectful group of men,” Ms. Sherman said. Head coach Dan Hurley has done a great job recruiting and instilling a culture of hard work.”
An example of that attitude came just after the team arrived, she said.
While the rest gathered in the gym, a young boy back back in the office read the morning announcemeets over the intercom. He finished with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Pocasset pledge, which has students place both hands on their hearts.
“The entire team followed along” with both pledges. “To see them all standing there with their hands over their hearts was a moment I wished the young boy announcing could have seen. Really special.”
It has been a stellar season for the Rams in many ways — as of Friday they were leading the Atlantic 10 with a 6-0 record (14-3 overall).
Helping arrange the event were National Grid Foundation's "Hoops for the Stars" program, URI, the Pocasset PTO and Pocasset School staff..