Power Forward

Josh Horton, Reporter

May 25, 2010 started like any other early summer day for Justin Grotevant, playing pickup basketball with his friends.

When Grotevant returned to his home in Canadensis, PA his life unexpected – and permanently – changed.

The 6’6 senior forward found his father Jim Grotevant dead in the basement of their home. He had suffered a severe heart attack.

“My Dad was the reason I played basketball. He was at almost every single game at Widener and that was almost two and a half hours away,” Grotevant said. “I went back to Widener for half of a semester, and I just wasn’t able to be that far away from home. After Christmas break I just stayed home. I couldn’t go back.”

Each game Grotevant would look for his father in the stands during the National Anthem. That was until the first game of his fifth semester
at Widener when he looked out into the stands, but knew his Dad was gone.

“I was fine until the National Anthem and then I just started to tear up and I couldn’t control myself,” he said. “It was just something I had to get used to.”

He leaned heavily on his brother Dylan, who was a senior at Pocono Mountain East High School, when he decided to come home from Widener. The Grotevants are a basketball family and the brothers used the sport to get through their tough time.

“It’s funny. Some lady came up to me and said her sons always fought growing up,” the younger Grovetant said. “That’s just not us. We never fought. Justin is my best friend and he is my rock and I think I am his. When he needs me I am there and vice-verse.”

Head coach Trevor Woodruff was recruiting Dylan at the time and he then connected with Justin.

“We recruited Justin hard out of high school and were disappointed we didn’t get him,” he said. “After talking with his high school coach, I knew Justin had left Widener, so we reached out to him as well and were very pleased when he decided to come to Misericordia.”

The brothers arrived in the fall of 2011, but the misfortune came to. Both Justin and Dylan were ruled academically ineligible following the fall semester of the 2011-2012 season. The brothers, who needed basketball more than ever, had to watch the rest of the season from the stands.

“I went to every game when I was out. There were a few games Dylan didn’t want to go to, but I went anyways and sat by myself,” Justin said. “It was tough watching them play, because I screwed up. They went so far last year and I really should have been there. Not just for myself, but for the team. I was a starter and I messed it up.”

He used the year he had off to become focused, both athletically and academically. Now an accounting major, Justin is back in the game, both literally and figuratively.

After doing the work to regain academic eligibility, his athletic eligibility was in question. He spent two-and-a-half seasons at Widener and wasn’t sure if the NCAA was going to grant him his senior season at MU.

“It was crazy. They just didn’t know what was going on. I was trying to get coach to let me know what was going on and kind of move ahead,” Justin said. “I was doing workouts, but wasn’t on the team yet. I was putting all this time in preparing for the season and I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to play.”

The first day of practice came and still no word from the NCAA. He was beginning to get restless. On the second day of the season, he finally received the phone call he had been waiting for.

“I was in class and coach called me and told me and said he needed to talk to me,” Justin said with a wide grin. “He told me the good news, and I started practicing that day.”

The news gave him the confidence he needed to perform on and off the court. He became the most efficient scorer on the Cougar basketball team, as he is making over 60 percent of his shots.

“The last two or three weeks, the coaches have been telling me to play with confidence and shoot with confidence,” Justin said. “I feel really good right now and everything is going pretty well.”

Although he didn’t know it at the time, his perseverance was a quality he learned from his father.

The family had an adjustable basketball hoop with a plastic blackboard outside of their townhouse in Canadenses. Justin and his father played one-on-one religiously and his father never let him win.

He had to earn it.

“He would tell me to tough it out, and if I kept playing hard I would beat him,” Justin said. “Eventually I beat him in like sixth or seventh grade. I guess I had to grow up some time. It was a big moment for me.”

He said it was the most important lesson he had ever learned.

“My brother actually got a tattoo this summer that says ‘Tough roads lead to the stars,’’ Justin said. “I believe in that, because with everything bad that happens there is always a light after it.”

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