Three years ago on Halloween, senior Kevin App was given the chance to wear a costume he had been dreaming of for years — the uniform of a Division I basketball player.
After meeting with coaches and spending the first few weeks of freshman year playing pick-up games with classmates who had been recruited by Cornell, App received a phone message from the coaching staff telling him to be at practice later that day. Three weeks later, the Silver Spring, Md., native was dressed and on the bench for the Red when Georgia Tech came to town for the Red’s season opener. For someone who had grown up watching ACC basketball, this seemed too good to be true.
“I got to the game two hours early and was up on the court running around,” App said. “For me it’s like a dream. I wouldn’t really pass it up for anything. … It’s kind of surreal and maybe now I don’t realize it but in a couple of years I’m going to miss it and it’ll be something I’ll be telling my kids about.”
And while App will have plenty of stories to share when his career is over — including hitting a 3-pointer against Syracuse in 2004 and sitting courtside at games watched by thousands of people — for the immediate future, he will be responsible for easing his young teammates into the college game.
“He’s pretty vocal, he understands how to play,” said head coach Steve Donahue. “He knows the game, so he’s reaching out to [the underclassmen].”
Since joining the team as a walk-on four years ago, App may not have seen the most action on the court, but he has found other ways to contribute. The importance of his role on the team was affirmed when his teammates elected him as one of three captains at the beginning of the season.
“[As a walk on,] you’re practicing, you’re never getting into games really,” Donahue said. “To take that role and not only make the team but have your teammates vote you captain after four years is just a great testament to his work ethic and his ability to lead and care about other people.”
From the start, App told the coaches he would do whatever they needed, whether it was playing on the scout team or subbing in for classmate Graham Dow while he dealt with an injury last season.
“That’s why you join a team, at least for me,” App said. “It’s not the games, it’s not the statistics, it’s more the team atmosphere. I think with our team we just have a great group of guys, our coaches are great and we’re all really close.”
The team is so tight-knit that when App and Dow both needed surgery to heal two separate hip injuries, they traveled to Philadelphia together last spring and had surgery one after the other. Not only that, but App never even fully understood his complicated injury and instead relied on Dow, who is a pre-med, to sort through the diagnoses and advice from medical professionals. That trust demonstrates how the team has come to mean more than just the realization of a childhood dream.
“The guys on the team are great and I would never pass on that,” App said. “They’re all my best friends now. … It was never really a question of stopping just because of injury.”