Brock’s Moment In the Spotlight
Three days later, Brock Kowalski was still wearing an ear-to-ear grin. It was the biggest night of his high school life-and it still hadn’t set in yet.
“No. Not at all,” said Kowalski. “I’ve been truly humbled by this whole experience. It really hasn’t sunk in at all yet. Hopefully by Monday or Tuesday it will. It’s been a true honor to be part of this team.”
On Feb.7, Kowalski, the student manager for the Kenmore East boys’ basketball team, sank what some instantly called the biggest basket in the history of Kenmore East basketball. The gym erupted with cheers and a local legend was born. “If people are willing to call it that, I’ll take it,” Brock said. Kowalski, who was named an honorary captain for the game against North Tonawanda, wasn’t really sure what to expect that night.
Kowalski, a senior who is in his fourth year as the team manager, and Bulldogs head coach Jay Robbins had an agreement that if the time was right Robbins would do what he could to get Brock in the game. Wearing his dress shirt and slacks as he normally does during the first half, when Brock came out of the locker room after dressed to play anticipation started to mount.
“Everybody likes Brock and supports Brock so everybody is happy for him,” coach Robbins said. “It was a good moment for him. He’s got a lot of friends. It was great. It wasn’t really planned. It just sort of came up.”
Brock, as most people know by now, got into the game late in the fourth after NT went on a 14-2 run to put the game out of reach. Brock missed his first two looks at the ring, but when that third chance game his shot fell true.
“I just had the biggest smile on my face,” Brock said. “I honestly had no idea what to do.”
Though Brock may have been at a loss for words his teammates were quick to say how much Brock deserved that moment in the spotlight.
Bulldogs captain, and long time friend, Ryan Moccio said that it was a fitting moment for a young man like Brock who gives his heart and soul to the team in anyway he can.
“It’s amazing to think that Brock has shown more passion for the game than half of the players that played in this program over the last few years,” said Moccio. “He does his best to put forth legitimate advice,but more importantly, he is a loyal and supportive person to have by your side.”
Kowalski, who also serves as the team manager and stat man for the Ken East baseball team, expanded his job description this past fall when, thanks to the urging of his twin brother Austin Kowalski, signed on the be the manager for the boys’ soccer team.
Though he practiced with them almost every day, Brock never got that chance to find his way into a game. But that was ok by him. Just practicing with the boys and feeling that team bond was enough for Brock.
“I just want to publicly thank coach (Rolfe) Friedenberg, my twin brother,” Brock said. “Also the team captains that kind of lured me into that team. I learned a lot. There’s a lot to take away from that experience.”
Ryan Moccio added that Brock’s unwavering morale support has been vital to the team as they battle their growing pains. And that Brock’s basket gave everyone something to smile about when a smile was needed most.
“Brock deserved that moment to shine on February 7th, not only because he has persevered through some adverse challenges,” said Moccio, “but because the moment he stepped out onto that floor, and hit his shot, our team, and the entire school came together, closer than they ever thought they could have been. Brock’s moment was a feel good moment for all involved.”
Even on senior night, making a basket was the farthest thing from his mind. Until he hit the court his biggest thrill of the night came when Jeff Spriegel, the Voice of the Bulldogs, graciously stepped aside so Brock could read off the starting lineups. Spriegel said that at first Brock appeared a bit nervous, but before you knew it “he Michael Buffer’d it!”
“I sure did,” Brock smiled. “That was a thrill. I’ve been looking up to all those PA guys like Rick Jeanneret, Spriegel. All of those guys for many years. To do that on senior night and to have people coming up to me for that was pretty cool.”
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Brock is unable to play basketball or other sports at the varsity level like his friends and classmates. But that never diminished his love of sports. If anything, his passion grew as he found his way to be part of the game as a manager. His love of the game and Ken-East is was has endeared Brock to everyone in the Bulldog family.
“A couple good looks. He banked one in and the place went nuts,” said Spriegel. “It was fantastic. The look on his face was just priceless.”
When asked if he would lobby Ken East baseball coach Les Simon for some playing time this spring, Brock casually said no. That his place was keeping the stats. That he was proud to do it. He had his athletic thrill and didn’t need to match or better it. He was fully content.
And that is what makes Brock Kowalski so special. It goes beyond the underdog sinking an improbably basket. Brock Kowalski is just happy being himself. In a world obsessed with more, more, more, Brock Kowalski is the gentle reminder that one can find pride and peace of mind in attaining smaller dreams.
“It meant a lot to share the moment with those captains,” Brock said. “With those guys Konnor (Flynn) and Ryan (Moccio). It feels awesome to share it especially with those two guys because we’ve grown up through the basketball system together.”
Ch4 Story on Brock: