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La Salle star overcomes life’s obstacles

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, March 25, 2013, at 8:10 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, August 25, 2013, at 9:02 a.m.

La Salle vs. Wichita State

What: West Regional semifinal

When: 9:17 p.m. Thursday

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles

Records: La Salle 24-9, WSU 28-8

Radio: KNSS, 1330-AM

TV: TBS

Gerald Galloway will know most of what his son does on the court in La Salle’s Sweet 16 game with Wichita State.

Galloway is blind. But he’ll still know how Ramon, the Explorers’ sweet shooting senior guard, is doing on the court during Thursday night at the Staples Center.

A family member, probably a cousin, will tell Gerald about key plays. That’s how it’s always been since Ramon has been playing.

His father will figure out the rest.

“Dad just knows,” Ramon said. “He played the game and has a feel for what’s happening out there without seeing it.

“I mean, I sit with my dad through high school games, he just knows. He just has a great feel for it.”

Challenges have been part of the family’s life.

Ramon’s grandfather, Carlos Moore, who was a mentor, has liver cancer. Ramon’s older brother is in prison.

“Challenges are there to be overcome,” Ramon said. “That’s what makes you better, stronger.”

In that sense, La Salle’s team is something of a mirror image of the Galloway family.

The Explorers have had their challenges.

Handed what used to be called a play-in game by the tournament selection committee, LaSalle had to go through Dayton, Ohio, and defeat Boise State to earn its 13th seed and last weekend’s trip to Kansas City.

The Explorers took out No. 4-seed Kansas State and then No. 12 Mississippi. Three victories in five days.

In early March, 6-foot-10 center Steve Zack sprained a foot and hasn’t played since. His chances of playing Thursday night are “less than 50-50,” according to those close to the team.

No problem for the Philadelphia school, which uses a four-guard lineup. Six-foot-8, 240-pound Jerrell Wright has played a little harder and longer. He tore into K-State with 21 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.

Galloway is averaging 17.4 points for the season and has been on fire in the tournament, averaging 21.3 points while hitting 12 of 23 three-pointers.

Guard Tyrone Garland, a transfer from Virginia Tech who became eligible second semester, came off the bench for 17 points against Ole Miss and drove for the wining layup with three seconds left.

“We feel like we’re on top of the world,” La Salle coach John Giannini said.

Please note he didn’t say the Explorers feel like Cinderella. His players dismiss the idea as well.

“We were chosen because we worked hard,” Galloway said. “We can play with anybody in the country.

“It’s a Cinderella story to the media and everybody that looks down on La Salle because nobody has La Salle winning or coming this far in the dance. But we play in the Atlantic 10. That sets us up for playing the best teams.”

It would be easy to think life set Galloway up to fail.

Raised in Germantown, a rough section of northwest Philadelphia, he said trouble was always around the corner. He was two when his father lost his eyesight.

Gerald Galloway was shot in the head by shotgun during a dispute over money that he had lent to an older man he knew from the neighborhood, his son said.

That’s when Moore, Ramon’s grandfather, became a significant factor in his life.

“When my dad got shot, he wasn’t able to be there hands-on,” Galloway said. “My grandpa was a huge influence on my life.”

Moore taught him about music and dancing. “Probably helps my moves on the court now,” Ramon said with a laugh.

His grandfather was also a former boxer, football player and over-the-road truck driver. Moore took his grandson along with him on trips when he was as young as five, teaching him about life and how to be tough but fair.

Those long rides also gave Galloway a chance to see the world beyond Philly.

He played his first two years of high school basketball in his hometown, but he grew nervous about becoming a statistic beyond the court. He saw the effect of gangs, shootings and drugs on his friends.

Galloway talked to his grandfather about it. Plans were made for him to attend William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach, Fla. — in part because the school had a national basketball reputation but also because Ramon’s mother had relatives in the area who could help look after him.

After being named all-state, he signed with South Carolina. He started 10 games and averaged almost 11 points over two years, but he longed for home.

When he learned his grandfather had been diagnosed with liver cancer, Galloway decided to transfer to La Salle.

Normally a transfer has to sit out a year of competition. But the NCAA granted Galloway a waiver and allowed him to play immediately because there was uncertainty about how long his grandfather would live and might never see him play at La Salle.

Moore, 61, has been on a waiting list for more than year for a liver transplant. He has had a chance to see his grandson play but also grow into a man.

“I think he’s proud of me,” Galloway said. “But I’m proud of him, too. He’s a fighter. He’s trying to beat this (cancer).”

Galloway also is encouraged by steps taken by his older brother, Gerald Galloway III, who has been in prison since a 2011 robbery. His brother has completed his GED and the two talk regularly on the phone.

“He’s not a quitter,” Galloway said. “He knows he messed up and he’s trying to be ready for life when he gets out.”

Wright, a sophomore, has known Galloway since they first met as teenagers at Philly’s recreation league.

“On and off the court, he’s been like a mentor to me,” Wright said. “He pushed me to class and helped me out with my work.”

Galloway grinned as he heard his friend’s words.

“I love you, Jerrell,” Galloway said.

I love you, too,” Wright replied with a smile.

Galloway’s look returned serious.

“You know, we have to finish strong,” he said. “Wherever that is, whenever that is. You have to have the will.”

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or at rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com.

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