Douglas determined to turn tragedy into triumph on the hardwood

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Florida

Posted On: 06/29/18 10:00 AM

Orlando McCorvey vividly remembers every little detail. It’s a post traumatic stress still lingering for everyone at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the Parkland, Florida community.

It’s already been 20 weeks since the gruesome massacre at the Broward County school, which resulted in the death of 17 people.

Yet for the Douglas basketball coach it still feels like it was yesterday. Not a day passes that McCorvey doesn’t wonder what could’ve been.

McCorvey was in the same building only 20 minutes prior to when the shooter entered. The only reason McCorvey left was because he had to take his class to the auditorium to supervise some other students.

In total, McCorvey had roughly 50-60 students with him when the shooter entered the school.

Then all chaos broke loose.

“All of a sudden when it happened, I didn’t hear a gunshot. I was kind of close to the 1200 [building] but we didn’t know what was going on up until we got back into the auditorium. So our alarm went off,” McCorvey said. “We’re just seeing kids sprinting for their lives. We’re running to come back inside. They’re telling us there’s a shooter. That’s when it’s like ‘Oh my God. It’s really happening.’“

In such a frightening moment, McCorvey relied heavily on the leadership honed during his six years at the helm of the Eagles.

The students desperately needed a sense of reassurance. McCorvey drew up the most important play of his life.

“The kids are coming up to you and they’re looking at you with a sense of urgency and fear,” McCorvey said. “To try to get those kids to calm down I had to use some of what I would do in a basketball game to keep them cool and collected.”

Unfortunately, mass shootings are becoming commonplace in America. However, the bleak state of reality is quite surreal to the survivors.

“It’s one of those things where you couldn’t imagine it could happen at the place you work at,” McCorvey said. “The kids started showing you different videos on their Snapchat. You’re just worried he’s going to come your way. Even now after all this time it still doesn’t really feel like it happened.”

McCorvey is a proud 2002 graduate of Douglas. Now more so than ever, he embraces his role as a mentor, imploring students to seize their time on Earth.

“I’ve tried to be someone that the kids here can talk to,” McCorvey said. “The only positive to take from it is to not take life for granted. Live your life to the fullest.”

That’s exactly what the students are doing through their activism. They’re determined to challenge the status quo and change the world.

“I think it just kind of shows the type of school that we have and the type of academics that these kids are learning on a daily basis. It’s really an awesome thing to see,” McCorvey said. “People label this generation but they’re going out there in front of the entire nation and getting people to listen to them.”

Meanwhile, the Douglas basketball team hopes to bring some joy to the community this season.

The Eagles went 8-15 last season but this could have the makings of a bounce back campaign.

Douglas’ leading scorer is expected to return (multi-sport senior big man Preston Sasser) and they’ve added four key transfers: 6-foot-9 junior Brandon Sanders (South Miami), 6-foot-4 junior Marshaun West (Seminole) along with brothers Chris Miller (6-foot-1 senior) and Derek Miller (6-foot-3 junior) from district rival Coral Glades.

From the moment they arrived, McCorvey has instilled to the transfers the importance of this season beyond basketball.

“With the new kids I’ve tried to put it into their heads that no matter wherever you guys came from, when you put that jersey on you’re playing for something bigger than just basketball,” McCorvey said. “You’re representing the school and you’re playing for the people that aren’t here.”

McCorvey is raving about the potential for this to be the best Douglas squad since a trip to the regional finals in 2015.

“I think we got more athletic, with more depth, speed and scoring. Entering my seventh year this might be my most talented team on paper. Hopefully they can get the same result as my 2015 team,” McCorvey said. “It’s going to be a fun team to coach. We’ll probably get up and down the court a lot and we do a lot of pressing and trapping.”

McCorvey has great respect for the entire field of 9A District 11.

“Coral Springs is usually tough. Even though their coach took a job at Cardinal Gibbons, they’ll be a tough team we have to compete against. Deerfield is always the team that is usually the big alpha dog in the district. Taravella is usually pretty decent,” McCorvey said. “Our league is pretty competitive from top to bottom. We always have to bring our A game.”

The Eagles are definitely inspired to soar to new heights and honor the lives of those that will forever be remembered.

“I think with the kids that are returning they have a sense of motivation to play for the 17 that we lost and for the Douglas community,” McCorvey said. “We’re going to be playing with a full heart this year. I think that’s a big motivation for our guys. We’re going to play with a big chip on our shoulders and we want to make our community proud.”