TAMPA — Layers of moments and decisions, both pleasant and melancholy, have molded Tampa Catholic senior basketball player Chivarsky Corbett Jr..
From keeping his father’s memory alive in body and spirit, to abandoning a promising prep career in football, and making a decision to continue his basketball career hundreds of miles away from his ailing mother, all has led the 6-foot-6 forward to the doorstep of a potential successful college career.
In November, Corbett signed a national letter-of-intent to play at the University of Delaware, a Division I program. He could have stayed close to home with Stan Heath at South Florida, but decided on Newark, Del., a school that created the best situation for Corbett.
Though the situation was welcoming, the decision was tough.
Since 2007, Corbett’s mother, Keshia Ravnell, has suffered from kidney failure. She’s awaiting word on whether or not she qualifies for a kidney transplant.
“We’re real close,” Ravnell said. “It’ll be hard for him at first, but it’s an adjustment you have to go through.”
Life altering adjustments are nothing to new to Ravnell and her towering son.
Corbett’s father, Chivarsky Corbett Sr., was killed in a motorcycle in February of 2000. Chivarsky Jr. was only 4. The day before his father died, Ravnell said Corbett had a premonition. In tears, he begged his father not to ride his motorcycle.
“It’s a big thing, not having a father here watching you, but he’s up in a better place watching down on me and my brother that goes here,” Corbett said. His father’s death made accepting his mother’s diagnosis difficult.
“When I got on dialysis, he was real sad, and I don’t know if he thought “I lost my dad, now I’ll lose my mom,’” Ravnell said.
Said Corbett: “It’s pretty hard on her, but she’s getting through it. She works hard every day and that’s what’s inspiring me. She’s hurt but she’s working hard to provide for me and my brothers every day.”
Sports became an outlet.
Corbett is the third-leading scorer in Tampa Catholic boys basketball history. If he can help the Crusaders reach the state final four, like he did as a freshman in 2010, he has a chance to graduate as the all-time leading scorer.
“From a pure talent standpoint, he’s one of the best that’s been here,” said Tampa Catholic head basketball coach Don Dziagwa. “He’s in that category. He can shoot the three, handle the ball and rebound well.”
Two years ago, another sport seemed like his ticket to college athletics. Corbett was the starting quarterback at Tampa Catholic as a freshman and sophomore. But despite being mailed dozens of letters from college football programs, including Alabama and Miami, he quit the sport after his sophomore year.
Ravnell suspects he played in high school to appease her love of football.
As it seems, focusing solely on basketball was a good decision.
“His potential is unlimited,” said University of Delaware men’s basketball coach Monte Ross, who with Corbett, believes he has recruited the greatest freshman class in school history. “When you have a young man with his outlook on life, and I think he’s a tremendous human being, then with the holes in basketball can be fixed, not that he has a lot of holes. The skill set he has and the size he has, it lends to a lot of excitement when you think of the future.” During Corbett’s recruiting visit, he was introduced to Jack Markell, the Governor of Delaware, at a football game. Ross went as far as informing Vice President Joe Biden, the former U.S. State Senator from Delaware and Delaware graduate, about Corbett.
The school made the necessary preparations to have medical equipment on site for Corbett’s mother.
“We were peachy keen to be able to get him,” Ross said. “He’s our type of flavor. He’s our cup of tea.”
Corbett has a tattoo on his left arm, a homage to his father. It was the only kind of tattoo his mother would allow. She understands how much her son wants to honor his father.
In the seventh grade, Corbett wrote an essay saying if he played in NFL, he would use his status to start the Corbett Senior Foundation named after his father, giving underprivileged kids from single mother households an opportunity to attend summer camps, visit the White House and receive gift bags for Thanksgiving and Christmas. “He’s always been like that,” Ravnell said. “Everybody likes him and he wants to help everybody.”
Corbett’s character also peaked Ross’ interest in recruiting him.
“He’s a special person,” said Ross.
Leaving a legacy people can be proud, even if it’s not his, is meaningful to Corbett.
“Once I leave here, I want to leave (a legacy) that I did everything I could, everyone knowing who I was and how hard I played and how respectful I was.”