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Dec. 17, 2003

By Chip Rogers

With time winding down in the first half of the Cavaliers’ home game against #10 Wake Forest last January, and Virginia trailing 41-40, Virginia guard Majestic Mapp fed teammate Todd Billet on the wing. Billet hit the three-pointer, giving the Cavaliers a 43-41 lead at the break, a lead they would not relinquish as Virginia upset the Demon Deacons 85-75.

Mapp finished the game with three points, four assists and a steal in 17 minutes. While those numbers could easily go overlooked on a stat sheet, his contributions played a key role in the victory. More to the point, however, his mere presence on the court was a miracle of sorts that did not go unnoticed and unappreciated by Cavalier fans, players and coaches.

Only 12 days earlier, at home against North Carolina on January 11, Mapp played for the first time since the final game of the 1999-2000 season. Having missed 70 consecutive games and two full seasons due to a prolonged recovery from a serious knee injury, the 6-2 point guard entered the game to a standing ovation at the 7:23 mark of the first half.

He played just over two minutes against the Tar Heels, enough time to launch one of the best “feel good” stories of the 2003-04 college basketball season.In all, Mapp played in 18 of UVa’s final 20 games in 2002-03 and averaged over 15 minutes. Against defending national champion and #8 Maryland at College Park, he scored a season-high 11 points in Virginia’s 86-78 victory in a game televised nationally on ESPN. Mapp went 7-for-8 from the foul line and blocked a shot in the final 2:43 of the game to help make the difference.

“Majestic gave us some valuable time and helped us win some games last year,” said head coach Pete Gillen. “I’m thrilled he was able to come back. It’s a great success story for him.”

“It was a blessing from God to be able to play again,” said Mapp, who never gave up his dream of returning to the hardwood despite multiple surgeries on his knee and a long rehabilitation process. “I knew I wanted to get on the court, and I was confident I would. Days like [the Maryland game], my body and my confidence were both great.”

None of those days, though, compared to May 18, 2003, the day that Mapp walked down Virginia’s prestigious Lawn to accept his B.S. in Economics from the University of Virginia. “It made my mother very proud,” recalled Mapp. “It also took the pressure off me.” Mapp’s older brother Scientific graduated from Florida A&M and his older sister Ramecla graduated from Buffalo State, giving his mother three college graduates.

This past summer, after earning his degree, Mapp stayed in Charlottesville for the first half of the break, training with his teammates here in Charlottesville. “We had a chance to bond and get to know each other,” said Mapp. “It will definitely help us this season.”Mapp had the opportunity to take graduate classes, setting himself up for the upcoming year as a graduate student. He took classes in Child Development and also attended the Multicultural Institute, showing his commitment to furthering his education as well as setting an example for his teammates, especially those who were just arriving at Virginia for the first time.Mapp is also excited about what those incoming players will add to the Virginia program. “They are a good group of players who will be great to have in the program,” he said.At the same time, he is also quick to offer words of wisdom to the new players, something appropriate for him as one of this year’s captains. “Don’t take anything for granted,” cautioned Mapp. “Don’t waste the opportunity, as it can be taken away suddenly.”

After the team broke for the summer following the first session, Mapp left Charlottesville for Alabama, where he trained for the upcoming season. With the rehabilitation phase of his training over, Mapp could concentrate on strength and conditioning for his legs as well as fine-tuning his ball-handling skills. “I lifted, dribbled, and shot every day,” said Mapp.

This work ethic comes as no surprise to fellow captain Todd Billet, who sings Mapp’s praises. “Majestic is a guy who brings tons of experience and leadership, which will be invaluable throughout the season. He really understands the game,” said Billet. “Even on off days he will be lifting weights and shooting baskets. As a captain, he wants to take an active role in leadership and he wants to lead through both actions and words.”Former teammates Roger Mason, Jr. and Chris Williams were both instrumental in Mapp’s trip to Alabama, a testament to the family atmosphere that Virginia head coach Pete Gillen has instilled in the basketball program. Mason set Mapp up with contacts such as Kevin Wilk of Alabama Health South, who helped Mapp with his workouts. Mapp stayed at Williams’ house during his stay. “It’s great having friends-teammates-who become your family,” said Mapp.

Mapp returned to Charlottesville in August to begin work on his master’s degree, while attending Virginia’s Curry School of Education. He is enrolled in the Social Foundations of Education program, taking such classes as Social Foundations in Education, History of Higher Education, and Anthropology of Education.

“They are all great classes,” said Mapp. “I learn about issues of policy and see some of the foundations in our educational system. I am also learning about how sports have affected educational policies and the role of women and minorities in the growth and development of education in the United States.”

Mapp plans to use his studies as a coach, preferably at the college level, after pursuing a career playing basketball. He recognizes the importance of dedication and hustle to a team, noting that he would look for these qualities in an athlete he was recruiting and/or coaching. “I would want them to be dedicated and give 100 percent,” said Mapp. “They would need to be able to balance academics and athletics, and also know what it takes to be successful.”

As a student-athlete at Virginia, Mapp has shown all of these qualities-and more. He has been recognized by his teammates in a variety of ways, including his selection as one of the team captains for the second year in a row. Two years ago, he was presented the Hardest Worker Award and, in 2001, he received the team’s Academic Achievement Award. As a first year, Mapp earned Virginia’s Fireman Award, presented to that individual in the basketball program who makes the biggest contribution to the team off the bench.

Virginia head coach Pete Gillen recognizes the qualities that Mapp has brought to his program. “Majestic loves the game,” said Gillen. “He has had great perseverance to stick through it after all he has been through. He is a great role model and a great student-athlete. He is a quality person. Majestic brings a lot to the table. He is a terrific person and a player who is giving us all he has.”

Mapp is consistently recognized as one of the positive examples of a student-athlete, as evidenced by his selection to grace the cover of Virginia’s Arts & Sciences magazine in a profile on balancing athletics and academics. He continues to be a great role model who has embraced his role as a captain and who demonstrates the exact qualities coaches look for in building programs.

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