A Dream Come True At Chaminade

Xhosa Fray-Chinn receives a team jersey from Chaminade University basketball coach Eric Boviard (left) and president Brother Bernie Ploeger. Photo from Bob Hogue

Xhosa Fray-Chinn receives a team jersey from Chaminade University basketball coach Eric Boviard (left) and president Brother Bernie Ploeger. Photo from Bob Hogue

Just a few days ago, I got word from the NCAA that Chaminade University was honored with the Division II Award of Excellence. This is a first-time award by the NCAA and it is given to the most outstanding community-engagement event in each of the nation’s 24 athletic conferences. Chaminade was named the PacWest honoree.

The Silverswords entry is worth a look back, as it was definitely one of the feel-good sports stories of 2013.

The story actually starts more than a year ago when a promising 6-foot-5 high school basketball player with a scholarship offer from a small Georgia college, Xhosa Fray-Chinn, was playing in an informal summer game with his friends at a nearby school. In the middle of the game, Fray-Chinn collapsed. He wasn’t breathing and his heart stopped. His father and a neighborhood nurse rushed to his side and began performing CPR. His mother frantically searched for the school’s automated external defibrillator. When a student found it, the defibrillator got his heart going again, and Fray-Chinn was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was put into an induced coma for five days.

When he ultimately was revived, doctors said he suffered from cardiomyopathy, the same heart ailment that had killed All-American Hank Gathers two decades ago. The defibrillator had saved his life, but doctors said he could no longer play competitive basketball. His family became involved with Make-A-Wish foundation, the nonprofit that grants wishes to families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. Fray-Chinn’s wish was to visit Hawaii and the wish was granted. The local Make-A-Wish office also was made aware of his basketball background, which included interest in Chaminade, so they gave the athletic department a call.

That’s when the Silver-swords decided to take it one step further.

“It was a total team effort,” says Chaminade athletic director Bill Villa. “Coach Eric Bovaird, students, players, staff – everyone got involved.”

They created a surprise for Fray-Chinn and his family when they arrived for a campus visit. When Fray-Chinn walked into McCabe Gym on a warm August day this past summer, he was greeted by his own cheering section, as well as the entire Silver-swords men’s basketball team and coaching staff. Chaminade president Brother Bernie Ploeger was there to present him with a Chaminade game jersey, and Fray-Chinn was named an honorary member of the Silverswords basketball team.

“I was surprised. I knew I was coming to Hawaii, but I didn’t know this was going to happen,” Fray-Chinn told some of the media on hand for the Make-A-Wish surprise. As the crowd continued to cheer him on, Fray-Chinn participated in light warmups with his honorary teammates and then posed for team pictures. It was a joyous occasion for all involved.

Months later, Villa reflected on the events that day. “To help him, to help him get part of his wishes and to put this all together in such a short time, it meant so much,” he says. “It wasn’t our intent to try to win an award, but obviously we’re very honored to be recognized.”

Fray-Chinn and his family expressed their gratitude to Chaminade for a day that all will remember for the rest of their lives. And now, the event also will be considered for the NCAA’s national Award of Excellence that will be named this month at the NCAA Convention.

For Chaminade, it will be recalled as a time when everyone came together for a wonderful cause and for a young man in need of a positive lift. For Xhosa Fray-Chinn, it’s about life moving forward. “It was a dream come true,” he says.