PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli on Wednesday will take the court with the most inspirational walk-on of his career.
No scorecard needed _ but keep the tissues handy.
Lenny Martelli Jr., no relation to the famous Hawks coach, remembers little about the Feb. 15, 2010 snowboarding accident that left him paralyzed. Only 15 years old, he lay motionless on the snow, fearing his normal life was finished.
“As soon it happened, I just thought about not playing football,” Martelli said. “I thought about not being able to do certain things. I had to accept that right away.”
His acceptance wouldn’t last long.
He had a broken neck, not a crushed spirit.
Lenny Martelli survived surgery and rehabilitation, and was tutored for months in a hospital bed. He listened to doctors tell him he may never walk again.
With the aid of canes, though, Martelli has ditched the hospital and started walking. He even plays guitar in a band. And on Wednesday night, he’ll walk onto the court with Phil Martelli before the Hawks (7-17, 2-8 Atlantic 10) take on No. 24 Xavier (18-6, 9-1).
“I told him when he gets healthy,” Phil Martelli said, “I want him to walk on the court with me at a game.”
Because one Martelli kept his promise to a coach, the other delivered with a chance of a lifetime. And he’ll do it the day after the one-year anniversary of the worst day of his life.
Lenny Martelli was like any teen who seemingly had it all. He played sports, went to school at Bishop Kenrick, played drums with a passion. He also enjoyed snowboarding.
But one freak accident nearly robbed him of his ability to walk and fulfill his future. When the accident happened near Schwenksville, Pa., where he was with two close friends, he immediately had no feeling from the chest down. He told his friends he couldn’t move. They didn’t touch him and he was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.
His family, of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., was called and only told their son was in an accident.
His mother, Leti, recalled a harrowing scene of hearing paramedics yell in a hall “Code blue! Code blue! Move out of the way!” She saw them rushing a stretcher with a white blanket covering the body and knew it had to be her son.
“He had a smile on his face saying, ‘It’s OK, mom. Don’t cry, mom. Don’t cry,” she said. “He said, ‘I just can’t feel anything.’ That made me cry even more.”