EAST LANSING, Mich. – When high school sports seasons were cut short because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, the Cardinal Mooney basketball team was in the middle of a playoff run.
The team had nine seniors, so it was especially tough for them when their final playoff hopes were dashed by the pandemic. Their coach, Mike McAndrews, wanted to make sure they had a good memory of the end of their season.
When the players joined a Zoom video chat, they had a virtual basketball banquet.
“We have nine seniors,” McAndrews said. “From their perspective, it was really tough.”
Before the banquet, McAndrews texted Michigan State star Cassius Winston’s high school coach, Pat Donnelly.
“I know I am swinging for the fences here,” McAndrews said. “What are the odds, do you think, of Cassius dropping in?”
A half hour before the banquet, McAndrews got a response that Winston was in, so the surprise was set, Nobody knew what was coming.
You could see from the reaction that Winston was a hit.
“All of a sudden, there’s a loading screen at the bottom,” senior forward Paul Nasr said. “Someone is here. I just couldn’t believe it. Great moment. Great moment for all of us.”
The All-American and former Big Ten Player of the Year took some questions and shared some advice.
“Remember all the good times, the great times you had, what a blessing it was to play at this level, and try to carry those forward,” Winston said.
“He didn’t have to do that,” junior guard Kevin Everhart said. “It was short notice. He was chasing a national championship and had his season cut short. It was perfect for us. What better guy to talk to all of our seniors?”
The Cardinals said not everyone is a Michigan State fan in the group, but they’re all Winston fans now.
“Thank you to Cassius Winston for taking the time out of his day to come see us and say some nice words of wisdom to us, especially in this time,” senior center Ethan Rogus said.