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Friday, April 6, 2018: Kleemann's legacy will endure, help many more

   Leading off today: Werner Kleemann had a positive influence on thousands of young athletes over his many years of service as a high school coach and administrator.

   Indicative of his power to shape young minds and lead them, he continued to inspire and motivate well into his 70s.

   Kleemann died Wednesday at the age of 76, surrounded by family at a Rochester hospital. As noted by the Democrat and Chronicle, Kleemann faced several health issues including NK-LGL leukemia, a rare chronic blood disease.

   As great as he was in coaching football at Rush-Henrietta -- 95-25-4 with six Monroe County League titles and two undefeated teams between 1972 and '85 -- his legacy may end up being the community's response to Kleemann's blood disease.

   During Thanksgiving week in 2016, reporter Leo Roth wrote a marvelous feature about Kleemann's latest health battle. In it was the story of how Kleemann felt guilty that the frequent blood transfusions he required were taking away resources that could be helping other patients across the region.

   That sentiment had inspired some of his former players to contact the Red Cross and set up a blood drive at R-H in their coach's honor. The idea was to do some good for the community while reminding the coach that his friends were there for him -- and others in need of a hand.

   Even before Roth's story was published, 60 people had made appointments to donate and it was projected that more than 100 pints of blood would be acquired, making it the area's most successful "in honor of" blood drive in at least five years.

   What happened next was amazing. The number of sign-ups soared once the story appeared, and the Red Cross ended up collecting 233 pints of blood that day to shatter the eight-county region's record. The turnout was so large that they had to start turning away walk-ins, asking them to donate at a later date.

   "I've never felt better than I do right now," Kleemann said that day as he visited with friends and former players for eight hours. "The response has been overwhelming, it's like a reunion. It's what it's all about, about giving back and I feel good about it."

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   I was one of donors that day. It was my first time giving blood, and I wanted to it in honor of Kleemann. His coaching stint had ended shortly before I began working on the high school sports beat in Section 5, but I'd come to know him over the years as we sat together in press boxes and worked on the sectional football hall of fame committee.

   There's a notation written in red on my day planner for next Monday. It's the day that calling hours are scheduled for Kleemann, and it's also the day that I become eligible to donate blood once again, which I think will be my fifth or sixth time.

   If even 20 percent of the people who donated blood that day in November 2016 are staying on close to a regular schedule -- and I'd wager that the percentage is higher than that -- then Kleemann's legacy will endure for a long, long time.

   Destination change ahead: St. Raymond senior basketball player Omar Silverio, who'd committed to Santa Clara last fall, has been granted his release by the West Coast Conference school and is expected to land at a mid-major closer to home.

  
RoadToGlensFalls.com







   I'm not sure what went wrong in their relationship. but presumably his original decision was influenced by former St. Raymond star being an assistant coach at Santa Clara. I mention that because there were a couple of college coaching moves in the news that will bear watching because of their New York connections.

   Bryant University announced on Monday it had hired Jared Grasso, who was an assistant for eight seasons at Iona College. The Long Island native played high school bal at St. Anthony's and was previously on the Fordham staff.

   Right out of the gate, Grasso reportedly made offers to a slew of players from the NYC metro area including Tyliek Rivers of Monsignor Scanlan, Ibrahim Wattera of Mt. Saint Michael and four former PSAL players now attending prep schools in the Northeast.

   Meanwhile, UConn coach Dan Hurley has added University of Minnesota assistant Kimani Young to his staff. Young's background includes time as the athletic director for the New York-based New Heights AAU program. That connection indicates that UConn intends to continue making New York a priority in recruiting.

   More reading: My weekly column for PressConnects.com wraps up the winter sports season and points out that two season-ending tournaments have flawed formats that ding their credibility.

   All-state update: I emailed every reporter I could think of this week to request assistance in compiling the all-state team in girls basketball. If I missed a reporter or one of the people who assisted us with weekly rankings during the season, please hit me up with nominations at jmoriello@yahoo.com by Wednesday.


  
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