The kids sitting courtside at the Palestra in Philadelphia scrambled from their seats, thinking they were diving after a valuable souvenir. Something flew off one of the Cornell players in the Big Red's recent game with Pennsylvania and headed for the sideline.
The kids were disappointed when they discovered the small, dome-shaped disc was not a high-tech piece of basketball equipment, Division I memorabilia to be sold on eBay. To them, it was detritus to be promptly discarded.
Trash to some, it is treasure -- literally a life-saver -- for Cornell University senior guard Andrew Ferry, a piece of an insulin pump he wears to regulate his blood sugar.
"Sometimes it gets knocked off during the action," Ferry said. "I get some weird looks from players, but within 5 minutes I can have a new pump back on."
Ferry was a rising star at Milwaukee Lutheran High School when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes one month after his 16th birthday.
"I learned how much of a difference my life would be and how different it would be from that point on, not just in basketball but in life," he said.
Andrew's father, Dr. Patrick Ferry, who played Division III basketball in Kansas and is president of Concordia University in Mequon, Wis., would meet Andrew at halftime of every game to check his blood sugar.
"Right before the team would go into the locker room, we'd meet and see how he was doing," Patrick Ferry said. "It was a brand new experience for us."
Regardless, Andrew flourished on the court, regulating his blood sugar but not his expectations.
"He never used it as an excuse," said Jason Moesch, Ferry's coach at Milwaukee Lutheran, who said Andrew would occasionally check his blood sugar level on the bench during games and that no one really noticed. "He just wanted to be a good student and a great basketball player."
Ferry was an all-conference standout and had scholarship offers from smaller colleges but decided to walk on at Valparaiso. Injuries depleted the Crusaders' roster and Ferry got some playing time, but by the end of his freshman season he did not fit into Valpo's future plans.
Ferry enrolled at Palm Beach (Fla.) Community College for his sophomore season and as was hot as the Florida sun, averaging 19 points a game. His long-range marksmanship attracted the attention of the Cornell coaches, and Ferry started classes at Cornell in fall 2010. Still, he ran into major challenges before he even hit the court.
"It was a difficult transition at first," Ferry recalled. "That first semester I was a little too ambitious with my course load and had to drop back a little bit. But once you figure out how to manage your time and get the help you need, I've been on the dean's list for all three semesters I've been here."
Ferry played in all 28 games his junior year, starting in 10. He was the team's second-leading scorer at 11.9 points per game. This season, he has started in every game and is the Big Red's top scorer, leading a balanced attack of an 11-15 team with 11.5 points per game.
Early in the season, Ferry led the nation in 3-point percentage and is currently ranked 11th in average treys per game, knocking down 3.1 per contest.
"I was shooting well over the first few weeks, came out really hot, but then the other teams started adjusting to me a little bit. I haven't shot as well lately," said Ferry, who still was shooting 39.2 percent from behind the arc.
Ferry's success in the Ivy League comes as no surprise to his high school coach.
"He's the hardest working kid I've ever had," Moesch said. "He still helps us with our summer league at night and after the games. I just leave him in the gym.
"His workouts are unbelievable. He told me he would make 1,000 3-pointers in one workout. We tell that to our kids all the time."
Ferry is scheduled to graduate in May with a degree in developmental sociology and is considering going to grad school for international affairs. But he hopes his next international experience is on a basketball court.
"I'm not ready for my basketball career to be over, said Ferry, who has toured China with an Athletes in Action team. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to keep playing. Playing professionally in America would be my ultimate goal, but I'd be very happy playing overseas."
Ferry says his chances for playing pro ball got a major boost from the sensational success of Harvard alum Jeremy Lin.
"The fact that someone from the Ivy League has had such a huge impact at the next level of basketball definitely makes people think about the Ivy League a little bit more in terms of what we're capable of," Ferry said. "I think we've seen a lot of former Ivy League players have professional careers, overseas, and now Jeremy in the NBA."
His father and high school coach are hopeful, too.
Patrick Ferry: "There are things he needs to work on but teams always need guys who can shoot."
Moesch: "That's going to be a challenge, a tough road. But given what he's accomplished and how he's accomplished it, I wouldn't bet against him."
Ferry's parents, Patrick and Tammy, have logged thousands of miles driving and flying from Wisconsin to distant East Coast sites to see their son play and will be in Ithaca the first weekend of March for Andrew's final collegiate games.
"They're the real road warriors," Andrew said.
"We're proud of him as a basketball player, but more than that as the kind of kid he is," Patrick said. "You always hope your kid will turn out to be someone you'd like to be friends with. That's certainly true in this case. He's a great kid."