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Jan. 15, 2003

By Chip Rogers

It’s a classic scene, straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Dad gives his son a ball and introduces him to the sport, and the son becomes a high school star, gets a scholarship to a top Division I program, and is named captain of the team. For Virginia guard Majestic Mapp, the portrait is an accurate one. His is an All-American tale of a father and son working together, bound by the love of a sport–the classic story of a family growing together and sharing the ups and downs of life along the way.

“From the time my dad put a basketball in my hand I wanted to be a basketball player,” said Mapp. “He was there with me all the time, rebounding for me as I took shot after shot, telling me what to do and what not to do. I learned lessons from him on the court and off the court.”

Saturdays in the Mapp family were spent at the Frederick Douglass Community Center in Harlem where a young Majestic worked on his schoolwork and his basketball. He learned the importance of a work ethic early and how to take care of his academic responsibilities while developing his skills at basketball. As one would expect, his dad was there to help him through it all as a resource both for basketball as well as life in general.

Majestic eventually moved onto the high school ranks where another father figure would surface in his life, his high school coach Gary DeCesare. DeCesare, the head coach at St. Raymond’s High School in Harlem, “helped me grow as a person and as a player,” said Mapp. “He knew what buttons to push to make me better and helped solidify the work ethic in me.”

Under DeCesare’s careful watch, Mapp blossomed as a prep player and was invited to the 1999 USA Basketball Men’s Junior World Championship team trials. A high school All-American, Mapp was one of the top-rated prospects in the nation his senior year. He finally settled on Virginia as his college choice, and upon the completion of his final game at St. Raymond’s, the reality that he was going to be a college player settled in.

After accepting a scholarship offer from head coach Pete Gillen to play at UVa, Mapp served as a key reserve for the Cavaliers in his rookie season of 1999-2000. He played in all 31 games that season and made two starts. His two starts were both victories for the ‘Hoos, as Virginia defeated Providence 80-64 and Arizona State 70-64 in the Puerto Rico Shootout. Mapp started his collegiate career with a pair of 10-point games as the ‘Hoos won their season opener over Elon 97-66 and followed it up with a 98-57 win over in-state rival VMI.

The Cavaliers played St. John’s in Madison Square Garden that December, which afforded Mapp the chance to play in front of his home crowd as a freshman. “The Garden is the place that kids dreamed about playing in,” said Mapp. “I had played there before, but playing for a college in front of my friends and family was a big deal.”

Mapp did not disappoint his faithful followers, scoring nine points and dishing out five assists putting in 29 minutes of duty. He followed that game up with a second consecutive five-assist night, helping Virginia defeat Loyola (Md.) at home 98-67.

Mapp started the 2000 portion of his freshman season strongly, putting together a string of 15 games in which he had a 2.92 assist-to-turnover ratio, handing out 35 assists while making only 12 turnovers as Virginia went 10-5 in that stretch. Mapp hit a career-high 12 points twice in that time and at one point hit 12 consecutive free throws. In the Cavaliers’ 87-85 upset of #21 North Carolina, Mapp had three assists, three points and a steal during a key 18-7 run in the second half that put the ‘Hoos ahead to stay.

Mapp concluded his freshman campaign ranked second on the team in assists with 69, which ranked him fourth among all freshmen in the ACC. He was also named to the ACC Academic Honor that season and earned the team’s Fireman Award at the team banquet at the conclusion of the season.

Four months later Mapp’s life took a drastic change as he tore his anterior cruciate ligament while playing a basketball game on his high school floor. After a pair of surgeries to repair the damage and two years of rehabilitation, Mapp is still looking forward to getting back on the court. His work ethic has not changed and his determination is still as strong as ever, qualities that have helped him tremendously during this period. They are also qualities that he has worked to impart to his teammates as a captain; an honor afforded him at the start of the 2002-03 season.

“It is my responsibility as a fourth-year to be a leader for this team,” said Mapp. “I need to be a person that the younger guys look up to and ask for advice. I need to know what to say and what not to say.”

Virginia head coach Pete Gillen is obviously hopeful that the Cavaliers will welcome Mapp back to the court soon. “We need him,” said Gillen. “He’s a smart player and a very confident player. He also has a great feel for the game.”

While Mapp is biding his time with the injury, he is still a positive influence for the rest of the team, carrying on the tradition instilled in him by both his father and his high school coach. “Playing is a lot of hard work,” said Mapp. “It takes a lot of mental and physical ability, and you can’t let anything get in your way.”

Mapp credits his father for continuing to be a support for him. “We’ve talked a lot about not giving up on my knee injury,” said Mapp. “I have my good days and my bad days, and that hasn’t changed since he put the ball in my hands.”

Mapp continues to have a positive outlook on the rest of his basketball career. The same determination to succeed that he showed as a youngster at Douglass Community Center is at the very core of his belief almost 15 years later, a solid work ethic focusing on looking ahead while taking care of the business at hand. Mapp and his father will have plenty to share in the years ahead.

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