Sometimes basketball is just basketball and real life needs to take center stage. Kyle Casey was a former Harvard Crimson captain who had his sights set on returning the Crimson to their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance. However, Casey, along with 125 other Harvard students, were their own worst enemy.
This past August, an academic scandal set the Ivy League institution on fire. Harvard, one of the finest universities in the world, has a set of rules in place and Casey may have broken them. Casey, facing a possible one year suspension, withdrew from the school on September 11, in the hopes of keeping his athletic eligibility alive. But Casey wasn’t looking to transfer, he was looking for redemption.
Casey states, “It’s a lot of soul-searching because when you feel like you’re on top of the world and then everything is kind of just stripped from you, it’s a reality check. It’s humbling, and you come back down to earth a little bit and figure out life.”
Casey, compared to his student brethren, might have gotten the most unfair shake out of the scandal because of his basketball fame. I don’t recall turning on ESPN and seeing John Fakenameolitz getting lambasted for partaking in some academic questionables.
In a somewhat ironic quote, considering he cheated, Casey did talk about how this situation has changed his outlook, “It was a rough period. You see the true colors of a lot of people, whether that’s good or bad.”
Casey bounced around for a short while after he left the school, staying with a former Harvard assistant before returning home to Medway, Massachusetts. That’s where a message from Andrew Mirken, who worked Harvard hoops camps with Casey, changed the Casey story to one of silver-linings.
Mirken asked Casey to be a part of the 3PointFoundation, a nonprofit organization that Mirken founded in March. It’s a free after school program designed to get kids better not only on the court but in the classroom. Mirken on the foundation and the positives of having someone like Casey involved:
“We have kids in our program that have been shot at, have brothers that have been shot and killed, their dads are incarcerated. When you give them an African-American role model, a young male, who is at an Ivy League school, he’s obviously going to change what these kids’ lives are.”
But the former Harvard captain has emotional ties to the foundation as well. Casey’s father was not involved in his life, and in turn he feels this can be his way to be a role-model for children that were similar to him, as his mother Sharon Casey explained, “There’s this belief that if you live in the suburbs, everything is wonderful. That’s not always the case. He could have been any one of those kids.”
Casey still stays in touch with his former teammates, even still watching the games on the picture-box. But it’s hard for him to not get upset watching the game he loves being played without him.
“Now that the basketball season is upon us, it’s kind of in your face all the time,” Sharon Casey said. “I don’t know if people want to see him publicly mourning or what the case may be, but I just think some things should be left private.”
Brandon Curry, another elected Harvard captain, is also absent from the team due to the scandal.
“I’m learning about real life,” Curry said. “I’m learning how hard real life can be when you’ve got to make money and you’ve got to go work a job. I’m growing up really fast and really maturing.”
The two former teammates are now helping each other get through this hard time. They speak to each other almost daily and talk about plans of returning to Harvard next season. While the university still needs to sign off on them returning, at least Casey has gained some life perspective.
“I think being in his program has really rejuvenated me,” Casey said, It’s given me that spirit again and the energy to wake up every morning with a passion and a purpose to make a difference in someone’s life, if not my life.”
Sometimes basketball is just basketball and life needs to take center stage. I don’t know what the future holds for Casey or Curry but they’ve put their big boy pants on, and they seem to fit just fine.
Joe covers the Catholic Seven for Rant Sports. For the love of Sam Cassell, follow Joe on the Twitter @JosephNardone