Norfolk Academy fans will have plenty of rooting interest in the Final Four - two recent Bulldogs standouts will play in college basketball's marquee event!
Mark Williams, who scored more than 1,000 points during his Academy career, now stars at Duke University, which faces rival North Carolina on Saturday, April 2. David McCormack, a fellow big man who is two years older than Williams, stars for Kansas. The Jayhawks face Villanova on Saturday night.
Not many schools can claim two of their own playing on the biggest stage in Division I college basketball.
“It is unbelievable," said teacher-coach Eric Acra '84, NA's boys varsity basketball head coach for the past two decades. “What an opportunity and what an experience for both of them and for the school."
Williams attended NA from first through 11th grade, moving to the IMG Sports Academy in Florida before his senior year. Though his size (7-foot-1) and skills have always made him an athletics standout, he has also been a team player. He helped the varsity as a manager as an eighth grader, dressing in coat and tie and keeping statistics, among other responsibilities. By the time he was in ninth grade he was on the court, helping lead the Bulldogs for three successful seasons.
He remains close with teachers, coaches, and friends from NA. When Duke played at the University of Virginia earlier this season, he visited with Acra, Director of Athletics Chad Byler, and classmates who went to that game.
McCormack was an all-around athletics standout at Academy, dabbling in football, track and field, and even dance. (Dance Master Elbert Watson taught him ballet moves that McCormack credits with helping him develop his footwork on the court.) Though he moved to Oak Hill Academy, a nationally acclaimed basketball powerhouse in western Virginia, in his junior year, he also remains close with Acra and friends he made at NA.
One of those is Morgan Wentz '16, who played on a varsity basketball team with McCormack. Now a Development Associate at Academy and an assistant on Acra's basketball staff, Wentz texts his buddy each game, wishing him luck or congratulating him.
While the Hampton Roads area is filled with basketball talent and regularly sends student-athletes into Division I basketball, not many schools can say they have two former stars playing in the Final Four, in any year.
“It's surreal that he's at this stage right now," Wentz said, talking about his friend McCormack.
While their basketball success garners them national attention and brings excitement to campus - Academy students and faculty can wear school colors orange and blue on Friday to build up hype before the big games - both McCormack and Williams are also dedicated and stellar students.
McCormack earned his undergraduate degree in communications studies from Kansas almost a year ago, during his junior season. He is a two-time academic All-Big 12 First Team honoree and was nominated for Academic All-America in 2020 and 2021. In addition, he was one of only 25 students chosen by Kansas' Chancellor to participate on the university's 2020 Campus Task Force on Community-Responsive Public Safety.
Williams, a sophomore, is projected by experts as a future first-round NBA draft pick, perhaps as soon as this year. Yet he still focuses on his studies, making the All-ACC Academic Team as a freshman.
Acra and Byler both plan to be at the Final Four in New Orleans over the weekend, supporting these two stars. They'll be joined by other alumni who are making the trip for the chance to cheer on their former classmates.
“It has been so much fun to follow them and watch them translate their success into big-time basketball," Acra said.
Read more about Mark Williams and David McCormack and their time at Norfolk Academy in these Virginian-Pilot, WTKR-TV, and WAVY-TV articles.