His players happen to be classy and amazing kids.
This past year, Tennessee guard Chris Lofton secretly battled testicular cancer. His senior season suffered as a result of the radiation therapy killing his strength, and yet he kept it quiet and made no excuses for his decline in stats. Even Bruce Pearl, a guy who I’m sure was dying to explain why his stat box stuffing star from the year before had hit such an ugly slump, kept his gigantic mouth shut. Tennessee went on to beat in-state rival Memphis and find themselves at the top of the polls for the first time in school history. They also made it to the Sweet 16, where they lost to a fired-up Louisville.
This story nearly made me cry. (Well lets be real, I totally cried. I’m a sucker for stories like this.) The most insane thing about it was how he found about the tumor. Right after Tennessee’s first round win in last year’s NCAA Tournament, Chris was randomly selected for NCAA mandated drug testing. The results came back positive for a hormone that can be an indicator of steroid use, or for a tumor. Now for a high level college basketball player, the idea of taking drug tests when you know you’re clean is probably annoying. And then to find out that test came back positive, and that that positive test either means you’re doping or you have cancer, would probably be the worst day of any athlete’s life. Yet he got through it. Lofton went through successful radiation treatments only to find that he was weak and out of shape. He spent the rest of the summer and into the season trying to get himself back in playing condition, although his stats suffered. But instead of complaining or blaming his lower scoring on his ordeal, he kept quiet and battled to get back to his former level of performance. Chris Lofton was around when Tennessee needed him, still proving that he could put up clutch three-point shots when he had to, and Tennessee had one of it’s most successful seasons in school history.
Lofton has declared for this years NBA draft. Now if I am an NBA GM or coach and I’m considering Chris Lofton and some other player, Chris Lofton is going to have so many intangible points in my book that the other kid better be Michael Beasely or Derrick Rose in order to take Lofton’s spot. How do you not give someone credit for playing through that? For keeping it classy and not trying to make excuses to the media for his performance? At UNC this year, Ty Lawson sat out 6 full games with A SPRAINED ANKLE. He whined to the media about how painful it was and how he had never been injured before. When he started playing again, he whined to the media about how he wasn’t 100 percent and how the ankle affected his explosiveness and speed. Chris Lofton played after massive surgery and crippling radiation therapy. He never once whined to the media and HE HAD CANCER. The toughness of this kid makes me so proud. NBA GMs, take note, PICK THIS KID. I seriously don’t think you’ll be disappointed.