Plenty of positives in Wesley’s hoop finale

While he was still dealing with some issues, Wesley coach Dean Burrows worked with his doctors in Newark to get released a few days before the Wolverines’ Division III tournament game. Wesley sports information photo

DOVER — The Wesley College men’s basketball team had just lost its biggest game of the season.

The Wolverines’ season was over.

But coach Dean Burrows said he and his players still celebrated after their 81-69 loss to Randolph-Macon in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament on March 6.

Not only did Wesley make it back to the NCAAs for the first time since 2014, but standout senior guard Brian Cameron broke the school career scoring record after a remarkable second half.

Burrows said he didn’t realize that Cameron set the mark until after the game.

“I just got done the post-game interview and tears are flowing and emotions are high,” said Burrows. “We kind of celebrated that (Cameron’s record) as we always do.

“That’s what was so special about this group. For all the individual accolades and accomplishments with what Brian has done, our guys take ownership of that. They feel like that’s them, too, which is awesome and rare in this world we live in today.”

Of course, the Wolverines had something else to celebrate even before the playoff game.

Just the fact that Burrows was with them for the contest was a pretty big accomplishment. The fifth-year head coach missed Wesley’s two games in the Atlantic East Conference tournament because he was hospitalized for complications from severe pancreatitis.

While he was still dealing with some issues, Burrows worked with his doctors in Newark to get released a few days before the game. He says “being stubborn and hard-headed,” he immediately drove to Dover to see his team.

“Nobody knew I’d gotten out,” said Burrows. “They were in a film session and I walked in. It was good. I stayed around for about 20 minutes.

Guard Brian Cameron broke the school career scoring record after a remarkable second half. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“My thing is, I wanted to be around my guys. I wanted to be there with them and for them and experience everything.”

Getting through the next few days as well as the game itself was something of a physical struggle for Burrows.

“But I would do it all over the same way again,” he said.

As for Cameron, it was a pretty rough first half.

He came into the contest needing 29 points to break the school record. But he had just six points at halftime on 3-for-9 shooting.

Cameron didn’t even attempt a three-pointer in the first half with four turnovers and three assists. Like every opponent, the fourth-ranked Yellow Jackets were focused on stopping Cameron.

Burrows said, despite his illness, he still had some strong words for his players at halftime. They trailed 37-27 at the time.
“I don’t think they were expecting me, in the state I was in, to go in and just be as emotional and as passionate and as heated — in some instances — as we were,” he said. “I just felt like we were playing scared and I called them out.

“I said that’s not who we are. That’s not what’s gotten us to this point. We had overcome shared adversity. … Just go play.”
Burrows also said Cameron and fellow-senior Derick Charles (17 points) were both sick themselves that night.

Wesley coach Dean Burrows and guard Brian Cameron. Wesley sports information photo

But it didn’t stop Cameron from pouring in 28 points in the second half alone. The 6-foot-3 guard hit 7-of-13 shots, including 3-of-5 three-pointers and all 11 of his free throws in the final 20 minutes.

Cameron finished with 34 points, breaking Rashawn Johnson’s school record by five.

“He was unconscious in that second half,” said Burrows. “There were a couple times where you were like, ‘No, no, no. …. Yep. All right, go ahead.’ If there’s anybody in the history of our program that can do it … Go ahead.”

Burrows was proud of the way the Wolverines competed in the second half. They got Randolph-Macon’s lead down to single digits before falling by only 12.

The Yellow Jackets won their second-round game against the College of New Jersey by 14 points to reach the Division III Sweet 16 before the tournament was canceled.

Burrows said he’s used to his undersized team not getting much respect at first. He said he heard the same kind of comments from TCNJ’s players, who were sitting behind the bench during the Wesley game.

“You can hear them, ‘Who are these guys?’” said Burrows. “Look at them and look at us. … we don’t pass the eye test with many people. But, by the end of the game, they’re standing there rooting for you and giving you standing ovations.

“We always talked, the entire year, about sharing our story as a program. We did that. Our program gained a lot of respect from a lot of people that night. That’s all we wanted at the end of the day. We were happy.”