Really sad to hear Sammy Schafer will not be able to again play basketball for Air Force.
In the dark days of 2008-2009, when the Falcons had tumbled to the very bottom of college basketball, Schafer served as a towering, encouraging beacon of light. He was a ridiculously skinny, always hustling freshman center. He stood 6-foot-11 and weighed 201 pounds (at best) but he understood the game and he was alone on that team in his understanding of the Princeton offense.
His potential was obvious. So was his contagious spirit. His teammates moped around, but Schafer played as if he were attending a wild, happy party. He shook his fists and shouted with joy after blocking shots and slapped his teammates on the back. Those teammates resembled mourners at a funeral.
But Sammy always – always – was having a good time, even in defeat.
“Basketball to me is first of all a game, and I’m going out to have fun. I’m out there to learn about life and to enjoy it,” Sammy told me after an especially ugly defeat to Vegas during his freshman season.
He would have added bulk and eventually become a force in the middle. His big brother, Ray, had been skinny but had transformed to mighty. Ray, then playing pro ball in Japan, weighed 250 pounds. Sammy was headed to the same destination. He might have become an all-Mountain West performer kind of player by his senior season.
Schafer suffered a concussion early in his sophomore season and later struggled with post-concussion troubles. He’s still struggling. He talked with The Gazette’s Frank Schwab this week and said he won’t be able to return to the academy or to the basketball team.
He had a special spirit. His optimism was unconquerable. He was a symbol of better days ahead even while the Falcons were getting massacred night after night.
Those better days have arrived, but he’s not here to enjoy them.
And that’s sad.
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