Special fan pays visit to Hebron

Drnec sees 1st game since accident paralyzed him

High Schools

January 30, 2000|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Last year, three-sport athlete Brian Drnec started at point guard for Mount Hebron's junior varsity basketball team, one of the best teams in Howard County. He had hopes of earning a starting varsity job until a Dec. 9 automobile accident paralyzed his legs.

Yesterday, following weeks of physical therapy at Kernan's, the junior returned to Mount Hebron to watch his first basketball game since the accident, a 57-56 loss to Long Reach.

To mark the occasion, the stands were simply decorated with a splash of gold and black balloons at both ends. His teammates warmed up wearing T-shirts with his name and jersey number -- 3 -- on the backs.

Drnec was called first as starters' introductions were made. And one by one the starters slapped his hand and greeted him in his wheelchair. Just before the game started, they huddled around him and said a prayer.

Much of the Mount Hebron community and beyond have embraced Drnec since his accident.

Donations poured in ever since his teammates and friends hand-delivered 5,000 letters, and the newspapers published the address of a trust fund established to help with his medical expenses: Friends of Brian Drnec, P. O. Box 213, Woodstock, Md. 21163.

Drnec was the soccer team's top marking back as it won its first state title last fall, and Drnec's soccer coach, Jeff Doolan, printed T-shirts that said: B. Drnec -- Be Brave. All six-dozen shirts were sold.

Many companies are donating time and material for a major reconstruction project at the Drnec home. The garage is being converted into Brian's permanent living space, and wheelchair ramps and a rear deck will be added.

At halftime in the locker room yesterday, Brian listened to coach John Aquila's first-half evaluation. Finally, Aquila said affectionately: "And does Coach Drnec have anything to add?"

Drnec's advice: "Pump fake."

And while his teammates warmed up again for the second half, Drnec wheeled over to his locker and looked longingly at its contents.

"I've been looking for my fleece jacket and there it is," he said. "It's great to be back -- great to see anything familiar."

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