TOWSON, Md. — 'A special day for a special girl' was the focus women's head basketball coach, Patrick Daniel, had when figuring out the details of how to welcome 11-year-old, Willow Job, to the blue and gold.
At 6-years-old, Willow, a resident of Cockeysville, Md., had a fever that would not go away. She got medication, but when it persisted, her grandmother, Dagry Frank, brought her to the hospital. There, Willow was diagnosed with SLE Lupus with Nephritis, an autoimmune disease that attacks healthy cells that the body confuses for invader cells which causes pain and inflammation in the body.
This disease is attacking her kidneys. Every three months, Willow gets chemotherapy to help with the inflammation, and has appointments once a week with a kidney doctor.
Willow and Goucher found each other through TEAM IMPACT, an organization that helps improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of team. Children are matched with a collegiate athletic team. From there, they are drafted — officially becoming a member of the team through graduation.
On Saturday, Nov. 14, Willow, accompanied by her grandmother, entered the Decker Sports & Recreation Center. They walked downstairs, opened the door of the Varsity Room, and 'Draft Day' was officially underway!
Willow and her grandmother took their seats at a table up front. On the table were name plates, bottled water, and a Goucher hat/jersey — everything that would be on it during a press conference. Members of the women's basketball team were seated in front of the table, acting as the media. Shenandoah women's basketball also entered the room, standing off to the side, showing support for Willow on her special day.
Daniel's welcomed everyone to 'Draft Day' and said a few words. Willow's face gleamed with a smile as Daniel's mentioned how her favorite color is fuchsia, favorite foods are pizza and burgers, and is a big fan of the TV show Hawaii Five-O and the movie Despicable Me. She also enjoys arts and crafts, drawing, and going to the mall.
Next, was the most important part — the contract. Willow signed the same exact contract that each and every woman's basketball player had to sign prior to the start of their season. The contract is a "pledge to be a positive leader who sets the example for my teammates through my positive attitude and actions."
The floor was then open for questions, starting the press conference.
Jaida Scarborough (Goucher): How does it feel to be a part of Goucher women's basketball?
Willow Job: All I have to say is it feels pretty good.
Erin French (Shenandoah): What are your hopes and aspirations on the season?
Willow Job: I hope that we can come out strong.
Monique Welch (Goucher): What are you most excited for?
Willow Job: I'm excited for all of the wins.
Amaka Ezeani (Goucher): How do you feel about Willow joining the Goucher women's basketball team?
Dagry Frank: Great!
Each answer by Willow had an exhilarating Daniel's respond with, "me too" which brought smiles and laughter through the room.
Willow and her grandmother were then escorted to courtside seats to watch the Gophers' open their 2015-16 season against the Hornets. Prior to gametime, Willow received a signed basketball and her grandmother received flowers as they snapped a picture with the team at half court.
Goucher put on a show for Willow and her grandmother as it came away with a 61-36 season opening win. As Willow gave her final words to the team, Daniel's expressed his gratitude as well as what it means for her to join the basketball program.
"It is truly an honor and pleasure to welcome Willow, who is a beautiful, funny, and full of life young girl, to our basketball team. She is such a courageous girl who is helping us all understand that each day and each moment is important to value family, friends, and your team."
Watch the 'Draft Day' press conference here: https://youtu.be/TJIHYatwaKg