"When you walk through these doors at Wilby High School in the morning do it with respect and with a purpose because you don't know coming into your classrooms everyday just how much you can learn from these teachers - they've been through school and they are here to help you out."
That was part of the message that Boston Celtics rookie forward Ryan Gomes gave to the student body of Wilby High School (of Waterbury, CT) on Wednesday as the high school paid tribute to Gomes by retiring his uniform number (#4) in a special ceremony.
Gomes was clearly a hero to the approximately 1,150 students that honored him in the Reggie O'Brien Gymnasium (named after Gomes' high school who passed suddenly four years ago). The all-time scoring leader at Providence College, Gomes looked like a candidate running for office as he took the time to greet old teachers, staff members and students and even paid visits to several classrooms.
"He is just a super individual and a fantastic representative of the youth that come out of the city of Waterbury, and we're just very, very proud of him," remarked Dr. Dave Snead, Superintendent of Schools for the city of Waterbury. "We're extremely proud of him as a Waterbury public school graduate who has gone to success and graduated from college, which is extremely important, and he is a role model for our youth."
"Learn something everyday as it can only help you in the long run," said Gomes, who is the first player from Waterbury to make it in the NBA. "I can continue to go back to school after basketball is done and get my Master's degree, so make sure you never give up and always have confidence in yourself that you can do anything."
To summarize just what Ryan meant to his school, Vice Principal Jim Vicario reflected back on Ryan this way, "It's so gratifying to see him be successful because he was a great kid. He was the basketball star and he was our best-known athlete but he was always respectful to his teachers, he was well liked by his peers and he worked so hard for everything. He was very serious about school, he understood that he had to have good grades and he worked hard to get into a great school like Providence. Athletically, he transformed himself into a professional athlete - he was a very good high school player but beyond our wildest dreams nobody projected him in the NBA. As good as a player that he was in high school, he was a better person."