Martellus Bennett, Hannibal Buress, Fenwick step up to help Morgan Park get rings

Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin and his team jump off the bench at the end of overtime, winning the IHSA boys' Class 3A basketball state championship over Oak Park Fenwick in Peoria, Ill., Saturday, March 18, 2017. (Ron Johnson /Journal Star via AP)

A thrilling fourth quarter comeback win secured Morgan Park the 2017 Class 3A state basketball title last month. Star guard Ayo Dosunmu was injured, so the Mustangs relied on two freshmen to pick up the slack. Fenwick led by 11 points with less than six minutes to play.

Morgan Park charged back to tie the game in regulation and win in overtime. So it is fitting that securing state championship rings was almost as dramatic.

Last week things looked bleak, Morgan Park didn’t have the money to purchase the rings and Chicago Public Schools was unable to help. But then Morgan Park athletic director Michael Berger posted a plea for donations on Twitter.

Money started to come in after that, including a generous donation from a Fenwick parent. Then some celebrities got involved.

Berger said that comedian Hannibal Buress, a Chicagoan, was the first celebrity to get in contact.

“Buress emailed me and asked how much we needed,” Berger said. “He sent me a sizable donation. He FedExed a check over the next day.”

“When I heard that I was really impressed,” Irvin said. “He said he was very concerned with us getting those rings. That put a smile on my face.”

Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett was the next celebrity to email Berger. Bennett, a former Chicago Bear, still lives in the northern suburbs.

“Bennett’s foundation offered to pay for all of the rings,” Berger said.

Irvin let Bennett deliver the news to the team via FaceTime.

“I put him up on the big screen and let him tell the kids,” Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin said. “They knew who he was right away and got really excited. They were so happy, it was great to see their reaction. That is a blessing right there.”

“I knew something would work out,” Dosunmu said. “The hard part was winning state. We just had to have faith in God that something would come through for the rings.”

Bennett is going to design the rings himself.

“He said he’s going to make it look sweet,” Irvin said. “He’s going to come out and play pickup with some of the guys too.”

Irvin and Berger were both touched by the reaction of the Fenwick community.

“Even though we were in battle, even though they lost they game they were right there willing to help,” Irvin said. “The Fenwick community is really impressive.”

Berger said the first email he received was from a Fenwick parent willing to donate.

“Then the Fenwick athletic director said they were going to organize a fundraiser for us,” Berger said. “A counselor emailed saying she would try and raise money from some of the teachers. It has just been incredible to see everything they were willing to do for us after losing the state championship game.”

Dosunmu hopes that the universe finds a way to reward the Friars.

“We beat them in a nail-biter in the state finals and then they step up like that,” Dosunmu said. “That shows class and sportsmanship. I believe in good karma. Something good will come Fenwick’s way. They are good citizens and overall people.”

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13 comments

  • Devonne Duling

    I am Parent to a 2017 City Champ, not a Leech!! This was A True act of Kindness in a World full of Hate and Destruction. Thanks to Friar Community and all others Who was Generous and Unselfish with their Actions!!

  • Brandon Davis

    The Fenwick community is an incredibly special one. When I was the head coach of a dead Hales Franciscan soccer team a few years ago, the Fenwick family donated a great deal of equipment to our program to help us get started. Aside from competing with/working alongside such great people as Dave Hogan, Scott Thies, Coach Quinn, etc…The CHILDREN AND FAMILIES are the most gracious I’ve come across as a coach. Kudos to the Fenwick community and to everyone who has played a part in celebrating the Morgan Park family and helping to bring well-deserved joy into their lives. Man may forget what you’ve done over time, but he will never forget how you made him feel. Well done.

  • Gene L. Martin

    wow thats a great show of sportmanship, its a shame that one of the richest cities in world, Chicago can’t afford to honor its public school champions, you pay enough taxes there, I was born & have extensive family in Chicago & every year when I visit the taxes for what I do are more than the services I pay for, STEP UP CITY OF CHICAGO !

  • Anita

    Love is stronger than hate and it is very evident during this Lenten season that the Fenwick parents and the other people who helped Morgan Park’s team know the power of love. Shame on the person who signed him/herself ” Reality Check” for his/her hateful words!! America is ALREADY great and the parents, coaches and athletes of both teams exemplify this in their actions. Congratulations to the Morgan Park Mustangs and God bless the Fenwick parents who are definite role models for their outstanding students.

  • Jason

    Its cool the stars pitched in but also crap….. These kids parents aren’t broke… Drving Cadillac trucks and Benzs….I kid mom has a reality show….Where’s her donation… The Irvin family got some change also…. Fenwick is going 4a which leaves another easy road to state for MP…. I guess they’ll be begging for help again next year….. LMFAO. MP jump to 4A !!!

  • RealityCheck

    This is outrageous. When are we going to stop giving leaches handouts? Why can’t these Morgan Park parents be responsible and work hard like the parents that struggle to put their kids through private school? They have cell phones, computers and televisions, but can’t afford championship rings? They knew there would be suckers out there to buy it for them. It’s time to make America great again.

    • Joe G

      You know NOTHING about those kids or their parents, including how hard they work. And it is those who reach out and help people with less who are truly making America greater. If you think the guy in the WH has improved things since he got there, you are sorely mistaken.

      And, BTW, you, evidently, didn’t have the advantage of private or public school to any significant degree: it’s “leeches.” (You can look it up if you have a dictionary OR a computer.)

    • James

      Reality check you are not in touch with reality. You are an embarrassment to all High School basketball fans. Turning a feel good story into hate. You have no idea what their lives are like.

    • FriarGuy

      I’m not going to educate you on structural inequality because this is 2017, and being willfully ignorant in a world where so much information is available is your fault alone. But I do beg of you, try practicing at least a parcel of empathy because I know for a fact if you were born in the shoes of the people you call “leeches” you would be them and if they were born in your shoes they would be you. As a Fenwick alum, I pray post wasn’t written by someone in the Fenwick community. One cannot call themselves a follower of Christ and spew this kind of hate.

  • Cse

    I am a parent of a Fenwick student, I would have loved to donate money for the rings for the Morgan Park basketball team. I just asked my daughter if she had heard about any fundraiser or received an email from the athletic director and she said no. It’s a shame that he did not send out a mass email to the Fenwick community, we would have raised the money for all the rings. Shame on Scott Theis for not getting an email out, I would have loved to be part of this story as a parent of a current Fenwick student!

  • K G

    Proud to be a Friar, graduate, and former faculty member of the greatest high school in the Chicagoland area. Friar pride baby!! Great story and keep doing great things Fenwick…God is watching!

  • […] The Chicago Sun-Times’ Michael O’Brien spoke with Dosunmu, Berger and Morgan Park head coach Nick Irvin for a story about Morgan Park’s fundraising effort. It’s worth your time. You can read it here. […]

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