Dylan Johnson / ESPN Greenville
many fans going to a basketball game, the game itself and the players provide them with the entertainment and sometimes inspiration that comes with athletic excellence. For Robby Lund, the best part of any basketball game he will ever attend happened over
an hour before it began.
pregame shoot-around for teams is the calm before the storm – before the fans have packed the house – and is the penultimate warm-up session before lineups are announced and the game begins. Normally players come out in their team warm-ups, shoot-around is
nothing extraordinary after all. Usually, East Carolina University shoot-around fits that description. Not tonight’s game against the University of South Florida however, not for Lund.
is standing on the sideline inside the Yuengling center in Tampa, Florida and spots the players running out, with Jayden Gardner and KJ Davis leading the pack. Lund begins to feel an emotion that he never has before, and this isn’t a usual shoot-around. The
team isn’t wearing ECU pullovers, but instead, white t-shirts that say “I (heart) Judy Lund” on the front.
like an emotion I’ve never really felt before in my entire life like, my heart immediately started going super fast. My leg started shaking and I immediately broke down. It was so unexpected, I had no idea,” Lund said.
Lund, the mother of ECU graduate assistant coach Robby Lund, is battling severe stage four cancer and is undergoing treatment. Fellow graduate assistant coach Justin Miller came up with the idea to get the shirts and made and have the team wear them in support
of his mother.
and conditioning coach Vinnie Calautti leads a pregame huddle with players after they all stretch and will give them a pep talk. Inside this particular pregame huddle, Calautti followed the day’s theme and honored Lund’s mother. “Let’s do this for Robby’s
mom”, Calautti told the players.
Pirates were coming off of a lackluster performance in its 65-49 loss at home to Wichita State a few days prior. Head coach Joe Dooley had taken away the players practice jerseys until they earned the right to wear ECU gear with their play. Lund likes to think
that pregame message of playing for him and his mother also led to the team playing inspired.
jumped out to a 17-7 lead just under four minutes into the game. They used that good start and turned it into a 39-28 halftime lead. Sophomore guard Shawn Williams needed a jolt as bad as anyone, having scored a combined 16 points in his last three games.
Williams came out on fire in that first half, scoring 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from behind the 3 point line.
said that it hit him hard when he learned of the gesture and it definitely made the team come out and fight especially hard.
mean everybody goes through stuff, I was going through a little rough patch so to know somebody else going through things as well that just makes us all want to fight,” Williams said.
days later Lund is back inside the practice court at Williams Arena, interacting with the ECU coaches and players while preparing for practice to get ready for a home game against the Memphis Tigers.
is in the midst of a particularly tough time in his life, so he admits he dives into hard work during his time with the team as a distraction. He describes this tough time in his life as a “nightmare”, and his relationship with the team provides him an escape.
Lund, every single player, whether they know it or not, have a positive impact on him. He said to them it might just be as simple as putting on a shirt for him or asking him how his mom is doing, but to him, that means the world.
head coach Joe Dooley thinks Lund has just as much of an impact in helping out the team in the many ways that he does, and that the t-shirt gesture was a simple decision for the team.
think the big thing is it’s the right thing to do, and I think the guys know that Robby does a lot and helps them out in a lot of different situations,” Dooley said. “Trying to be mindful of his family situation. And he was appreciative of the guys and our
guys are appreciative for everything he does for us.”
thanked everybody after the game and said that everybody loved the video he posted. That includes his mother, who was not feeling well enough to watch the game and see the moment unfold live. She did watch it later, however, surrounded by family members and
friends and “cried happy tears for like 10 minutes”.
never thought that a seemingly routine February road trip would provide him with a memory he’ll never forget.
lot of coaches 20-25 years down the line won’t remember a random February game but I will never forget that night for the rest of my life,” Lund said.
part of the way Dooley has been establishing a new culture at ECU. The Pirates eventually lost a tough 72-68 overtime game to the Bulls, but it all isn’t just about hustling hard, earning wins or losses. It’s just as much about family.
made me really appreciative of what this team has, even though on the court things aren’t going how maybe they want to go but, it just shows the character of some of the people we have in the locker room,”
“it just shows you that it’s more than just basketball.