Orum wears the words

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 14, 2002

LEROY – It’s hard to fight a battle when you feel like you’ve already lost.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

LEROY – It’s hard to fight a battle when you feel like you’ve already lost.

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It’s a story Chad Orum knows all too well.

The LeRoy-Ostrander center on the boys’ basketball team has played three of the best games of his career in the last two weeks, leading his Cardinal squad to within one game of the state tournament. Orum, a junior, has averaged 28.3 points and 14.3 rebounds over the span, winning what two weeks ago felt like a fight worth losing.

Chad’s grandfather, Everett Vreeman, passed away Feb. 27 – one day before LeRoy-Ostrander was set to begin its run at the postseason. Vreeman, 86, of Spring Valley, was not a basketball player, nor an athlete. He never gave his grandson any basketball knowledge the 6-foot 5-inch center hasn’t already learned.

He was a mentor, "a farm boy," he gave him friendship, ice cream, and now he’s given Chad inspiration.

"The sub-section and section’s dedicated all to my grandpa," Chad said after his LeRoy-Ostrander squad claimed the Sub-Section 1A East Division title last Friday. "I did it for him, I’m doing it all for him."

You could not have known what Chad was going through by looking at him, unless you looked down. There, inscribed on his shoes in black marker, was the whole story.


On both shoes, right where Chad could see them, were his grandpa’s initials.

On the left shoe: "RIP."

And on the right: "GRAMPS."

You might not have any idea, unless you watched him play.

Orum’s game face throughout the postseason could match any players’ at the world poker championships. Scoring 34 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in L-O’s sub-section opener, Orum was a rock. His third-seed Cardinals started with a 55-37 win over Lanesboro Feb. 28 – one day after Chad’s grandfather had passed.

"That was a tough game, it was really emotional," Orum said days later, following a 50-48 victory over second-seeded Fillmore Central. "I just wanted to go out and do it for him, because that’s what he would have wanted me to do."

That after a 26-point, 18-rebound night contributed more than 50 percent of the Cardinals’ totals in a slight upset. Fillmore Central had defeated L-O, 71-64, in late January.

"I thought he played very well considering his situation," L-O coach Russ Foster said after the Cardinals’s round-one win. "I wasn’t sure where we were mentally, I was really concerned, but we were able to play through that.

"We still have to live our lives, but our mindset needs to be focused on basketball when we’re out there."

For Orum, basketball has been business as usual – and business is getting good.

On Friday, LeRoy-Ostrander defeated top-seeded Spring Grove, 73-67, to win the East Sub-Section 1A title. Chad had 25 points and 15 rebounds in the triumph over a team who one month earlier had defeated the Cardinals, 63-60, in Spring Grove.

And for the first time in three postseason outings, Orum shared a smile with his teammates during the game.

The win moved LeRoy-Ostrander (16-9) into the Section or District finals for the first time in school history.

"Nobody expected us to get this far," Orum said. "We expect to win, and nothing else.

"We can play with anybody, and we go to the finals now."

LeRoy-Ostrander plays Faribault Bethlehem Academy at 6:30 p.m. Thursday night at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. Bethlehem Academy, the third-seed Cardinals coming from the West Division of Section 1A, also upset top-seeded Trinity at River Ridge, 62-47, in their Sub-Section final.

The winner goes to state.

Faribault B.A. has fought this battle before. The Cardinals were the Class A runners-up in 1993, and made a repeat appearance in 1994.

LeRoy-Ostrander is setting its own standard. The Cards have never before been this far but appear poised to raise the bar a bit further on Thursday night.

That’s if Chad Orum has anything to say about it.