By Rich Chrampanis |
Senior night is always filled with balloons, signs and a lot of emotion. Rumson-Fair Haven decided to mix all of that in with a whole lot of inspiration.
There have been a lot of wins over the past four years produced by the RFH boys basketball seniors and team manager Jack Velcamp was as much a part of the success as any player on the roster. Born with dwarfism, the 4- foot-2-inch senior has been a fixture on the football sidelines and on the bench of the Rumson-Fair Haven boys basketball team for the past eight years. When it came time for Senior Night and the final regular season home game for the highly successful Bulldogs basketball team, Velcamp would leave his traditional suit and tie and put on a varsity uniform. Head coach Chris Champeau didn’t need to think twice about giving Velcamp not only the ceremonial introduction, but to actually put Jack into a game against the Holmdel Hornets.
Velcamp can play ball. After all, he was a member of the USA basketball team at the World Dwarf Games over the summer. As he drained three-pointers in warmups, it was Jack’s hope to connect from beyond the arc when the game started. After a few misses, the opportunity came on the right wing and the lane opened. With 3:49 to go in the first quarter, Velcamp dribbled to the goal and executed the perfect layup. A Hollywood director couldn’t have conjured up a better scene. The entire Rumson bench mobbed Jack after his first and only varsity basket and carried him off the court a hero.
“Eight years just rushed through me,” Velcamp said when describing the emotions of his basket. “I remember the memories – every single great one, every single bad one. I just got overwhelmed because I know this is my last year with probably the best coach on this planet.”
Champeau is best known for guiding RFH to a Shore Conference championship in 2015 and a Central Jersey Group 2 title in 2017, but what he’s done beyond the big wins is much more important. He has created a culture that has permeated through the entire school. From the support of the student section, to one of the largest rosters in the state, it’s only fitting that Velcamp’s special moment is something that is cherished by everyone associated with the team.
“I just told the guys in the locker room that some things are way bigger than wins and losses and basketball,” Champeau said. “That’s a moment that everyone will cherish and be proud of because we helped a guy realize his dream. He always said he wanted to score a varsity basket on this court in front of this crowd on Senior Night and that’s exactly what happened.”
The feel-good story extended well beyond the gymnasium in Rumson. Video of Velcamp spread like wildfire on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It didn’t take long for the nation to be captivated by Velcamp’s bucket. CBS Sports, Yahoo, MaxPreps and Overtime all ran stories on a national platform. It’s been estimated that the video has been seen well over a million times around the globe.
One thing that shouldn’t be overlooked was the tremendous sportsmanship shown by the Holmdel boys basketball team. Champeau has publicly acknowledged coach Sean Devaney and the gesture that the entire Hornets program made to give Jack his special moment.
There is a long list of RFH Bulldogs who have scored hundreds and even thousands of points, yet they will be hard pressed to be as memorable as the one and only basket of Jack Velcamp’s basketball career at Rumson-Fair Haven. And the senior who really is the big man on campus, has one word to sum up his entire journey.
“I just want everybody to believe,” Velcamp said in the locker room following RFH’s 63-50 win over the Hornets. “Since day one of my birth, my mother always believed, the doctors said I wouldn’t make it. But my Mom and Dad always believed. That’s the word we used this year. It’s an unbelievable word. All you have to do is believe.”
This article was first published in the Feb. 8-15, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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