Making the most
of his second chance
Before he ever stepped onto the basketball court at Curry College in Milton — a debut 30 months in the making — Lambros Papalambros worked his way through a mountain of physical and emotional pain.
The Colonels’ junior captain from Quincy lost his mother, Lynn , to breast cancer when he was 8. And it took a number of years for Papalambros to understand that his immmature behavior off the court was linked to his mother’s passing.
He starred on the court at both Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree and Suffield Academy in Connecticut, but his transition to college athletics was far from seamless.
As a promising freshman starter at Babson College in the fall of 2008, Papalambros was suspended from the program after he was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
After counseling, and a return to Babson, his right knee, injured during summer workouts, required total reconstruction, which doctors felt would most likely end his college playing career.
“I remember the chills going down my spine,” recalled the 6-foot-4 Papalambros. “It was a shock, like losing something or somone I loved all over again.”
He went to work, on his knee, with rehabilitation, and on his grades, taking courses at Quincy College. Off the court for a year and a half, he received an opportunity from Curry men’s coach Malcolm Wynn . The coach’s daughter, Allanah , a Milton Academy grad, now a senior captain at Babson in Wellesley, was acquainted with Papalambros.
Papalambros reported to practice in October 2011 and was named a cocaptain by Wynn two days later. Then he went out to justify his coach’s confidence-building decision.
Last season, Papalambros was named to the Commonwealth Coast Conference second team on the same day he scored a career-high 35 points in a season-ending conference quarterfinal loss to Nichols.
Through nine games this season, he was leading the Colonels in field goal and 3-point field goal percentage (59 and 50 percent) while averaging 15.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He also had a team-best 12 steals and 32 assists.
“After all he’s been through, it’s so satisfying to see Lamby’s hard work on and off the court pay off,’’ said Wynn, whose team was 5-4 overall (2-0 conference) prior to Saturday’s game against Salve Regina.
“He’s having a fantastic year and some of the things he’s doing for us don’t show up on the score sheet.
“This is a young man who had put all his focus on playing in college and then thought it would all be taken away from him, and I can’t begin to imagine what that must have felt like. What I do know is that he’s stronger and more confident than a year ago and he’s always had a high basketball IQ. I also know a lot of people are happy for him.’’
This past summer, hoping to improve his long-range jumper, Papalambros took 300 shots a day at the Quincy YMCA.
“I’d shoot off the dribble and off the catch usually while wearing my headphones and I kept a log with a goal of making 250 of them. I think I averaged about 230,’’ said the 23-year-old Papalambros, who stayed close to the game during his recovery by coaching in the Quincy AAU program.
“I’ve been a gym rat at the Y since I was a kid. Basketball was always my outlet after my mom died and I can’t say enough about my dad, Larry, who has helped me get through the tough times and really encouraged me to attend Curry.
“Last year I had moments when I was reluctant to go to the basket or was unsure of myself. Now, even though I wear a compression sleeve to keep my knee warm, I’m making instinctive plays and the difference is like night and day.’’
Papalambros is also proud of his comeback in the classroom.
“I made dean’s list last semester,’’ he said. “That’s even better than a 3-pointer hitting nothing but net.’’
Walpole’s Dina Rizzo has been named associate head coach of the field hockey program at the University of Maryland, which she led to the 1999 NCAA Division 1 national championship as a player.
“Heart, unmatched daily work rate, details to high performance and love for the game are her coaching trademarks,’’ said Maryland coach Missy Meharg. “It has been an honor having her back in College Park as an assistant for the past three years.’’
As a player, Rizzo participated in three final fours and two NCAA title games and was named a first team All-American as a senior.
“I have a lot of passion and respect for this program and couldn’t be more grateful to work with [Mehard] and to continue working with a group of amazing, talented, and hard-working women,’’ said Rizzo, who, after graduating in 2002, earned a spot on the US Senior national team.
She played for seven years and competed in all six of the US women’s field hockey games at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Rizzo also played in the 2006 World Cup and was a member of the 2003 Pan American silver medal team.
At Walpole High, Rizzo played in just one losing game and was an integral part of three state championships (1994-96) and a 78-game unbeaten streak (77-0-1). She was the first player in state history to score 100 career goals, finishing with 111.