ROCK HILL, S.C. -- Winthrop University's men's basketball team took to the court Saturday for much more than a game.
Following a deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the team's head coach Pat Kelsey used his time for a post-game press conference to speak about the event and his hopes for change.
In part, Coach Kelsey said, "And I'm going to be an agent of change with the 13 young men I get to coach every day and the two little girls that I get to raise. But hopefully things start changing, because it's really, really disappointing."
The speech attracted national attention, even from Stephen and Becky Kowalski. Their 7-year-old son Chase died in the shooting along with 25 others in the shooting on Dec. 14, 2012.
Saturday afternoon, the basketball team wore jerseys with the first names of all of the children who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary.
"I have a daughter, so I couldn't imagine going through that and they are so strong I'm just thankful they let me wear his name on the back of my jersey," said Joab Jerome a senior forward.
The name on the back of his jersey belonged to Chase Kowalski who was just seven when he was killed; his family was honored along with the seniors on the team.
"To just have people come and tell us how much it meant to them for us to be here it helps in our healing process," said Rebecca Kowalski, who is Chase's mother.
"They reached out a phone call that I'll never forget for the rest of my life," said Coach Kelsey.
Coach Kelsey connected with the Kowalskis after the speech, and on Saturday, he invited the family to be his special guests at the game versus Presbyterian College. They've talked on the phone and online but they met for the first time on Saturday.
The family, including Chase's sisters Erin and Brittany, was honored before the game. The crowd gave them a long, emotional standing ovation as Chase's loved ones shed tears.
The team also decided to pay tribute to all the victims by wearing their names on the jerseys. Senior team captain Joab Jerome sported Chase's name. The coaching staff donned lapel pins in memory of the slain staff members.
For information on the Chase Kowalski Memorial Fund, click here.