Basketball a family affair at Cedarville

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 3, 2005

CEDARVILLE - For Anthony and Emily Delimpo a huge part of their experience at Cedarville University has revolved around the game of basketball.

It's not often you find a brother and sister playing college basketball at the same time in life, let alone at the same school - but the Delimpos from Chesapeake - have truly enjoyed the unique times they have shared together.

The recent success of the Cedarville University men's and women's basketball squads can be attributed to the talented efforts of both Anthony and Emily. They both wear No. 44 and they are relied upon for their special skills underneath the basket in scoring and rebounding.

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Anthony, a 6-foot-7 senior post player, transferred to Cedarville last year after playing two seasons at Mount Vernon Nazarene - a conference rival of the Yellow Jackets. The criminal justice major looks back on the circumstances that brought him to Cedarville and recognizes the Lord's leading in the decision.

"I was praying about my situation at Mount Vernon and started to make some contacts with people at Cedarville. It happened so fast and so smoothly that I look back now and see God's hand in everything," said Delimpo.

A solid family foundation has been vital to the Delimpos as they have taken steps of faith throughout their lives. Parents Dave and Valerie have always been unselfish supporters of their children and involved in helping them grow into Godly young adults.

One of the key factors in getting Anthony to Cedarville was his younger sister, Emily, who was already enjoying success on the court for the Lady Jackets. Emily encouraged her brother to check out Cedarville and she also began spreading the word of Anthony's interest.

The female Delimpo - a 6-0 junior post player - has put up some exceptional numbers in her

career at Cedarville. This season, she became the 13th Lady Jacket to score 1,000 career points.

She has been to the NAIA National Tournament in each of her first two years with the program and it looks like another trip could be in order this season.

The team finished a 35-3 season in 2003-04 as the NAIA National Tournament runner-up and Emily contributed 12.4 points per game and led the squad with 9.1 rebounds per contest. She was named to the American Mideast Conference South Division First Team for her efforts.

Anthony's first year with the Yellow Jackets proved successful as well and reinforced his decision to transfer.

"I have loved everything about Cedarville - from basketball, to academics, to daily chapel and just growing everyday in my walk with the Lord," Anthony said.

He registered a third-best 11.9 points per game last season with 5.5 rebounds and was part of a Yellow Jacket team that finished 27-9 overall and were AMC South Division champions. The team advanced to the NAIA Division II National Tournament and moved into the Elite Eight before losing to the eventual national champion. This year, Anthony and the Yellow Jackets are battling through a challenging AMC South Division with the goal of getting back to the tournament. Delimpo is scoring in double figures again (10.7) while grabbing 5 rebounds per game.

And now another blessing from above has given Anthony more reason to be thankful for God's leading to Cedarville. He and Lady Jacket senior forward Tami Gheen are engaged and will be married in May.

It is the type of story that makes one realize dreams do come true. Gheen, a four-year performer for the women's program and one of Head Coach Kirk Martin's first recruits, is thankful how God brought Anthony into her life.

"I never really said much to him at first," Gheen stated, "but after last season's 68-66 upset win at NCAA Division I Wright State (a game in which Delimpo made the winning basket) I sent everyone on the team an e-mail to congratulate them. Well, Anthony responded with several e-mails of his own and then we started talking and getting to know each other."

The two started dating in January 2004 and found themselves becoming more and more serious. Of course, it helped that Emily and Tami were teammates and the two could work together on how best to woo Anthony and keep the relationship growing.

"I wasn't really looking for a girlfriend at the time," Anthony said, "but the more time we spent together, well, I knew she was the one for me."

It will be a big wedding celebration with basketball as a major reason for the relationship but ultimately, God bringing two people together in His perfect plan.

Anthony will graduate in May and is already looking for employment in the Dayton area using his criminal justice training. Gheen, a multi-age physical education major from Piqua, Ohio - about 70 miles north of Cedarville - will also graduate and is looking for a teaching job in the area as well. The two love Cedarville University plus they want to be around to watch their friends continue the successful basketball tradition that has been built over the last few seasons and cheer them on to reach new heights and accomplishments on the hardwood.

But in the midst of final wedding plans, there is an exciting basketball season to finish and all three of these Yellow Jacket athletes will be focusing their efforts for the next couple of months on the hardwood.

Emily continues her junior season with a drive and desire to reach the National Tournament again. The workhorse under the hoop for the Lady Jacket squad is one of the leading rebounders in the American Mideast Conference and she is the team's third-leading scorer. It has been an incredible run of success for the biology major&gt During Delimpo's first three years with the Lady Jackets the team has posted a record of 91 wins and just 7 losses for a .929 winning percentage.

"I am so grateful that God led me to Cedarville. I really wanted to attend a Christian university and first heard of CU when they were recruiting Anthony in high school," said Emily. "It truly has been a blessing to play basketball here but more importantly to study and grow in my relationship with Christ through chapel, Bible studies, prayer groups and other services. I am learning the importance of putting "others over self." I have fallen in love with the people at Cedarville and especially my teammates."

Emily has thoroughly enjoyed the last two years with Anthony being a part of the men's team. "Having my brother here has been an absolutely awesome experience," she added. "We have grown in our relationship through keeping each other accountable, helping out with homework, sharing thoughts and frustrations, encouraging and simply being there for each other."

"He has always been the big brother I look up to and it is amazing to look back and see how far we've come."

And those times together will be drawing to a close in a few short months as Anthony graduates and is married to Tami. But the Delimpos have made lasting memories during the last two years as CU fans have watched them perform on the hardwood. One thing is for sure, family is what these young people are all about.

However, not everything is running on cruise control for the Delimpo and Gheen households.

Both Mrs. Delimpo (Anthony and Emily's mom) and Mrs. Gheen (Tami's mom) have recently been battling cancer. It has brought the families together as they have worked through all of the emotional ups and downs that seem to follow a cancer diagnosis. Both women have had surgery in the last 6 months.

"My mom is really doing well," said Anthony. "She has a great attitude about her situation and is usually upbeat and positive. Certainly, she has her good days and bad days, but she has been able to get to a lot of Emily's and my games to cheer us on.

"She keeps things in perspective and knows that God is in control - taking one day at a time. She is undergoing treatment and we are all hoping for the best."

The operation for Mrs. Gheen has seemed to clear her cancer and she has received good reports as of late. "My mom is back to work now," said Tami. "Her surgery was the day of our game at Shawnee State (Dec. 11, 2004) and she has recovered with a good prognosis for which we are thankful!"