‘Real progress to build on’

Published 12:51 pm Thursday, April 7, 2016

With the college basketball season now finished, I want to express my deep thanks to our fans for your support this past year.

After three seasons, I know firsthand that we have the Big South’s best fans, and Willett Hall has more energy than any other arena. Your support makes me more determined than ever to lift this program up.

There is real progress to build on. A program ranked in the bottom 15 of 347 Division I schools when I arrived has climbed the Big South standings each year.

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This past season was our highest-ever conference finish. The past three seasons saw several unprecedented marquee wins: our first win over a BCS program against TCU, upsetting No. 1 seed Charleston Southern to make the semi finals of last year’s Big South Tournament and beating reigning conference champion Coastal Carolina this past year.

There’s more of that to come. Next year we’ll welcome the strongest recruiting class that Longwood basketball has ever seen. We’re moving in the right direction.

As a program, we’ve also faced challenges. As we work to rebuild, our win-loss record still isn’t where I want it to be. And a few of my players have made decisions that reflect poorly on our program. When I came to Longwood, I promised to build a winning program that would reflect well on the university. I know we still have work to do.

As a coach, I am first an educator. Often, an educator’s most important work takes place in times of struggle. This year, I worked to teach my team resilience, particularly after we lost several games at the buzzer. Resilience will be a critical life skill for them, and they showed it by coming back from double-digit deficits in their last three games.

The same educational philosophy applies off the court. Accountability starts at the top, with me, and I hold my players to standards that exceed other programs around Virginia, the Big South and the nation. That said, after 26 years coaching, I know that for student-athletes a team provides important structure and direction. So I first look for ways to hold young people accountable without setting them adrift. As an educator, and a person of faith, I believe giving up on somebody should be a last resort.

I wanted you to hear directly from me about my values and commitment and my appreciation to Longwood and this community for your support.

Jayson Gee is the head men’s basketball coach at Longwood. His email address is geejt@longwood.edu.