Baker's Donley plays in NCAA tournament

Chad Donley

Baker School's Chad Donley helps cut down the net for the Liberty University basketball team earlier this month after the Flames won the Big South Conference tournament.

Special to the News Bulletin
Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 03:07 PM.

Former Baker School and Northwest Florida State College basketball player Chad Donley is no different from most players.

As a boy honing his skills on driveways, playgrounds and musty gyms, he dreamed of bigger stages where he would display his game.

Playing for Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., Donley stepped onto college basketball’s biggest stage on March 19, when the Flames played North Carolina A&T in the opening round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I basketball tournament at the University of Dayton in Ohio.

Liberty lost the game 73-72, but Donley purportedly is the first former Gator to play in the tournament.

"That's really humbling when I think of all the great basketball players that have gone before me at Baker," Donley said in a phone interview Monday. "I have to thank my coaches; coach (Mike) Martello (at Baker), coach (Steve) Forbes (at Northwest Florida State), (former Raider) coach (Bruce) Stewart (who died of cancer in May of 2011) — all of them put me in a place to succeed, so I owe a lot to all of them."

Donley said that, as a boy shooting baskets in the driveway, it would have been hard to imagine playing in the NCAA tournament. That the Flames, which started the season 0-8, could make tournament this year might have been an even bigger dream.

"As a kid when you’re always out there in the driveway (practicing), you are thinking about playing in big games, and it was really surreal at how things happened to make it there," he said. "Being a part of the team has been a blessing. It's crazy.



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