Willett Hall hardwood gets its name

Published 6:45 pm Tuesday, December 6, 2016

By Brian Klingenfus

Special to the Herald

Longwood University gave a special honor to former Longwood and NBA men’s basketball star Jerome Kersey in a brief ceremony Saturday before the Lancer men took on James Madison University.

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Kersey, who played for the Lancers 1980-84, set records in points, rebounds, steals and blocked shots. During his time at Longwood, Kersey scored a total of 1,756 points. Kersey went on after college to play for the NBA, playing 11 seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers and then moving on to a handful of other teams.

Aside from his professional legacy, Kersey, who passed away in Feb. 2015, kept close ties with Longwood. In 2005, Kersey finished his degree from Longwood, having left for the NBA with just two classes remaining to finish. He was commencement speaker in 2009 and was honored in 2015 with the William Henry Ruffner Alumni Award, the highest award given to an alumnus.

“Jerome had been an ambassador for both Longwood and the Portland Trail Blazers, so we had been looking for a way to honor his legacy for a while,” Longwood Athletics Director Troy Austin said. “He was and is a wonderful example of what can be done as a Longwood student athlete.”

Because of his skill as a basketball player and his continued ties with the school, Longwood held a ceremony before the game Saturday, renaming the hardwood in Willett Hall, “Jerome Kersey Court.”

Jerome’s friends, former players, and family, including his former wife, mother, father and grandmother attended the event. Just before the start of the Longwood versus JMU basketball game, Jerome’s friends and family were welcomed to come to center court. A resolution was read in Jerome’s honor, and his friends and family were given a plaque commemorating the renaming. A video tribute was played in honor of Kersey and his career.

Mary Elizabeth Kersey, Jerome’s grandmother and primary caretaker growing up, said she couldn’t be prouder and more humbled.

“He loved to work, and he loved basketball,” she said. “He even played in the snow, clearing an area around the basketball court so he could practice.”

Longwood Head Coach Jayson Gee said the award and dedication is well-deserved.

“Personally, I’ve been trying to get our guys to really understand the magnitude of who he was, what he did while he was here, and what he did as an NBA player as both a basketball player and especially a human being,” Gee said reverently. “For our University to have an opportunity to acknowledge arguably the most notable alum in our history is significant in and of itself, and it’s something I take great pride in.”