By Dave Topp
Seven-year-old A.J. Kirchner was having a great start to his basketball season until a fall on the court ended things prematurely this winter. After a come-from-behind victory for A.J. and his White Hornets teammates, who play in the Green Hornets basketball league, A.J. slipped on the court and broke his wrist, ending his season.
Before his injury, A.J. was averaging 16 points per game and his team had a 5-1 record.
“This break hit him pretty hard, because he was having a good season,” said Jessica Kirchner, A.J.’s mom. “He was down in the dumps.”
That was until A.J. received a special letter in the mail on February 10. It read, “A.J. — Wishing you a speedy and complete recovery from your injury. Keep a positive attitude, be a great teammate and know that one former Green Hornet is rooting for you!”
That letter was from former Green Hornets player and current Marquette University men’s head basketball coach Steve Wojciechowski. “Wojo,” a nickname that the coach picked up during his playing days, grew up in Severna Park and attended Cardinal Gibbons School in Baltimore before going on to star for the Duke University basketball team from 1994 to 1998.
The mom of A.J.'s teammate contacted Wojciechowski, who responded by sending A.J. the letter. In the days since, coaches and teammates have praised A.J., a St. John the Evangelist second-grader, for the enthusiasm and excitement he brought to the court even though he couldn’t play ball.
“He came to every game after that,” said Bill Trevillian, A.J.'s basketball coach. “Every game after that, he showed up with his cast on and was involved with the scoreboard and making sure the other kids on the team were following their assignments.”
While the team lost a player, it gained an assistant coach from the injury. “He's a really enthusiastic kid about basketball, that's for sure.” Trevillian said of A.J. “He would've played with his cast on if we would've let him.”
A.J., who played shooting guard for the White Hornets, said his favorite basketball player is Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets. The Kirchner family loves to watch college basketball and the NBA as well.
“He took to basketball on his own. We put a court in the backyard for him and it kind of came natural to him,” said A.J.’s dad, Greg Kirchner.
The White Hornets season may be over, but that won’t deter A.J. from his love of basketball. If a broken wrist couldn’t slow him down, an offseason won’t either. He’ll be back on the court in no time.
Through a spokesman for the Marquette University men’s basketball team, Wojciechowski declined to comment for this article because he didn’t write the letter to receive any recognition.