by Gabriella DePinho & Colleen McNamara, Senior Writer & Asst. Sports Editor
Prior to the start of every basketball game in Draddy Gymnasium this season, both teams’ starting lineups are announced to empty stands sparsely decorated with cardboard cutouts of fans. While family and friends are able to watch games at home on ESPN+ or ESPN3, the women’s basketball team, like every other team, has had to adjust to playing games without their loudest and most loyal supporters—their family or friends—in attendance. However, head coach Heather Vulin and the leadership of the women’s team found a way to bring the starting lineup’s family to them for a sweet, virtual surprise.
As the women’s team prepared to face the Quinnipiac Bobcats in December, the five starters — Emily LaPointe, Pam Miceus, Dee Dee Davis, Gabby Cajou and Courtney Warley — were expecting to hear their names called the same way they always are. Instead, a different video started playing on the screens in Draddy that had never publicly been shown before.
In that video, the family, friends and loved ones of each player, announced their names and incorporated special messages to their favorite player while the song Outro by M83 played in the background.
The sweet video only aired at the one game, but the video is up on the women’s basketball team’s Twitter account for fans, Jaspers and the players to rewatch. Since the team is currently on pause due to COVID-19, the program will not have a chance to air it before a regular season home game again, with their next game coming at the MAAC tournament in Atlantic City which runs from March 8 to March 13.
The Quadrangle sat down with the team’s starters to hear about their reactions to the video and about how one player may have known it was coming.
Miceus is a 6’1’’ master’s student who walked on to the team as a sophomore and now serves as team captain. In the video, her oldest brother comes into the frame, takes a few jabs at a punching bag and then announces Miceus’ name and shares his support saying, “You go little sister. Get those blocks.” While the video came as a surprise to the rest of her teammates, one of Miceus’ other brothers accidentally spoiled the surprise.
“My brother called me the day before asking who he was supposed to send the video to, and I thought ‘Oh they must be doing something,’” Miceus said. “I had to go to warm ups knowing something was going on but I did not tell my teammates since I wanted them to be surprised.”
Even with that, she was still surprised.
Unlike her teammates, Miceus’ family usually cannot attend games but she knows they are always supporting her. Misceus even joked that she sees her family at the games more now than ever before — as cutouts in the stands.
“My motivation for playing is my family, them not being there physically isn’t really a factor for me, I know they are always there with me,” Miceus said. “I know where my support is, but the video was an extra indicator that they are there.”
While the team waits out their pause due to COVID-19, Miceus is grateful for any and all time on the court, knowing that wherever her family is they are cheering her on.
“It is a blessing to be out on the court,” Miceus said. “I am going to love every shot I take, whether it goes in or not. Whether we have to run sprints or not, I will run with a smile on my face. I am excited to go everyday to the absolute max.”
6’3’’ senior center Courtney Warley was surprised by her mom and sister who each took a line from the script they used to announce Warley in the video. Living in Westchester, Pennsylvania, Warley’s family usually does what they can to make it to her games, so this season has been different for her.
“For a team that values family first, not having them physically there to hug, or go out to eat after a game has been extremely tough since they’re a constant source of support and encouragement and energy,” Warley said.
Warley, like most of the lineup, was caught off guard by the creation of the video.
“Our coaches are very good at surprising us, and making special moments for us, so I’m not surprised that it happened but I was surprised by the video,” Warley said. “Seeing our family support us in a different way was extremely special this year.”
Warley has been able to stay in touch with family through more frequent calls and FaceTimes, but has found that even without the external support present in the stands, the team is “hanging out more, using this time to bond even more then we have.”
5’10’’ sophomore guard Emily LaPointe considers herself to be extremely close to her family. Considering that she hails from Staten Island, they came to most of her games last season and “would nearly cover an entire fan section last year.” Her family was able to recreate some of that section by rounding up nine family members wearing Jaspers apparel to introduce her.
The video also revealed just how strong the women’s basketball program’s commitment to the players is.
“I was extremely humbled and taken aback by the video because it shows the support of our program to take the time to set something up like that,” LaPointe said.
When games were open to fans and regularly scheduled every Thursday and Saturday during the season, LaPointe could spend time with family. Playing amidst COVID-19 restrictions and pauses has made her even more grateful for the bond her team has.
“It is challenging because we just see each other all the time, so adjusting to a different support system,” LaPointe said. “I think there is a blessing in disguise with everything, I am extremely grateful because I think my family and teammates are closer than ever.
One of the team’s starting point guards, 5’4’’ Gabby Cajou, was introduced by her sister who, after introducing her, hooted and hollered the same way she might have had she been in the stands. To Cajou, that clip of her sister was priceless.
“If you know me, you know my sister, my best friend, my number one supporter,” Cajou said. “She has made me be the person I am today and am so grateful for that.”
Cajou was grateful that the program put the video together, but also that her family — and her teammate’s families — were willing to take the time to make that happen.
“Just seeing the video shed light that our families are thinking about us,” Cajou said.
Though Cajou’s family cannot physically be with her, she knows she can lean on them and her whole support system in other ways.
“I know they’re here with me,” she said. “I know they got me. God’s got me. My teammates got me.”
Dee Dee Davis
5’8’’ junior guard Dee Dee Davis was shocked when she was introduced in the video by a very special trio in her life.
“Anybody who knows me, knows my dog, my girlfriend, and her mom are my world, they are absolute studs,” Davis said. “They are fantastic and support me in any way, so I am still taken aback by the intro video.”
While Davis misses out on having her support system in the stands, she is grateful for the athletic department’s support and decision to involve the team’s loved ones during this season.
“Completely fantastic, the fact that our coaches care enough to give us additional support and show our family’s love even if they can’t be there in Draddy gymnasium,” Davis said. “It was really a good feeling and we’re thankful for that opportunity.”
Davis is leaning on her team as a support system as they navigate this unprecedented season, but is also grateful for FaceTime, text, and “all that good stuff” that keeps her tapped into her external support system.
Results aside, when looking back at the 2020-2021 season, the special introduction video featuring family and friends will be a lasting memory from this season. Even better, the MAAC recently announced that a limited number of family members of the competing student-athletes and coaches will be allowed to attend the upcoming conference tournament in AC. That means players and their families will be reunited together for the biggest