Jerome Kersey ’84 was many things to many people. To NBA fans, he was a high-flying rim rocker whose relentlessness on the court earned him the nickname “No Mercy Kersey.”
To those in the Portland community, he was a philanthropist—a contributor to many charities and initiatives who was selfless with his time and money both during his playing days and after retirement.
To Longwood fans, he was one of the greatest athletes to ever walk the campus, a smalltown- star-turned-NBA-sensation that all Lancers, past and present, can still proudly recognize and say, “He went to my school.”
To longtime friend and fellow Lancer Kevin Brandon ’82, Kersey was all those things and more. Brandon spent decades at Kersey’s side during a lifelong friendship that began at Longwood and blossomed throughout their different yet intertwined careers.
Now, approximately two years after Kersey unexpectedly died at age 52, Brandon is furthering the legacy of his friend through the establishment of the Jerome Kersey Men’s Basketball Scholarship.
“Jerome deserves this because he helped people, and he helped me,” said Brandon, who returned to campus this past December when Longwood’s home basketball court was named in Kersey’s honor. “He has done incredible things for my wife and me, and for other people that I don’t even know of. Everything lined up perfectly to make setting up this scholarship in his name so right. I want to keep Jerome’s legacy alive.”
Brandon and his wife, Rhonda, established the scholarship with a $25,000 donation. The scholarship will be awarded annually to a men’s basketball player who embodies Kersey’s drive and dedication on the hardwood and in the classroom.
I wanted it to be for a student like Jerome who worked hard to play ball and worked hard to stay in school.Kevin Brandon ’82
“I wanted it to be for a student like Jerome who worked hard to play ball and worked hard to stay in school,” Brandon said.
The bond between Brandon and Kersey began forming in the early 1980s, when they were two of the few men on Longwood’s newly integrated coed campus. Brandon, two years ahead of Kersey, graduated in 1982 as a therapeutic recreation major, but their friendship continued well after their Longwood days. Kersey went on to get drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1984, and he brought Brandon along for the ride.
“We talked every day,” Brandon said. “I was in Portland two or three times a year. Jerome would call me on the spur of the moment and say, ‘I want you to meet me here,’ and I’d go see him. I’d go out there for his birthday parties; I’d go out there for basketball games. Or I’d meet him somewhere on the road. Even when they were playing Washington, Jerome would come to my house the night before the game and sleep on the floor because I didn’t have a bed long enough for him.”
Brandon enjoyed the face time with NBA Hall of Famers and the prime seats at Veteran Memorial Coliseum, but he said the moments that truly defined his friendship with Kersey happened away from the crowds and the stadium lights.
“He was so down to earth, which is because of how he was raised,” Brandon said. “When I left Longwood, I worked at a rehab hospital in Washington, D.C., the Hospital for Sick Children, and I dealt with a lot of disabled children. Jerome was in the NBA, but every year they played Washington, he would go and do a tour of the hospital. He would visit the kids and the staff. He would be there just to hug them.”
Kersey donated his time and money to the hospital, even funding a playground for the children. That generosity is just one of many examples of Kersey’s one-of-a-kind spirit, which still causes Brandon to tear up when remembering his friend.
“He just had a heart of gold,” Brandon said.