May 9, 2011

Statham beats cancer, eyes winning back lost scholarships

How does it feel to have the most important thing in your life taken away?

Just ask 18-year-old Taylor Statham, a graduate of Santa Clarita (Calif.) Golden Valley High School, who saw his basketball dreams vanish following a bout with cancer.

"Every day I was hooked on the IV, I was thinking about playing again," Statham said. "It was killing me inside to know my friends were all outside playing."

Statham was a star at the high school level at Golden Valley before moving on to play at Phoenix (Ariz.) Westwind Prep Academy, where he hoped to boost his recruiting stock that already had coaches from around the country taking notice of the shooting guard.

Those plans were abruptly put on hold in only the very first month of the season, as Statham was diagnosed with testicular cancer in November.

Statham had surgery the day before Thanksgiving, and started an intense round of chemotherapy in January. He said his sessions lasted five to seven hours, and took a tremendous physical toll on his body.

"It affected everything, even simple things around the house," Statham said. "I'd be in the middle of class, and I wouldn't even be able to get up and walk to a computer to write an essay."

Statham also lost his hair during the treatments, which also took a good amount of the basketball star's muscle mass. Statham began treatments weighing 215; he ended chemo at 185.

"I didn't think chemo would last so long," Statham said.

Just like he's done so frequently on the hardwood, Statham beat the cancer, which is now as he says, "100 percent gone." Statham didn't waste any time getting back to the game he loves.

"I was supposed to wait a few weeks, but I went out there a couple days later and played in a game for my AAU team," Statham said. "It was an amazing feeling, but I was dying. I couldn't breathe."

While Statham's team ended up losing the game, the fifth-year senior recorded a triple-double despite not having his usual endurance, tallying 25 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

"I've never played so hard in my life," Statham said.

While Statham has beaten the cancer, his greatest challenge still lies ahead. Statham calls it the "fear of the unknown."

"When I was diagnosed with cancer, a lot of the scholarship I had were given away," Statham explained. "I've got to prove myself all over again."

While Statham doesn't have a college to call his own just yet, one coach in the Northeast already has Statham high on his wish list.

"John Dyer at Vermont Tech told me that he really wants to coach me, because of my resilience," Statham said. "He told me that if I can beat cancer, with the heart I have, I can do anything."

Statham says battling the disease helped give him perspective, and helped him grow as a basketball player and as a person.

"At first, I was all alone in Phoenix [at Westwind Prep] and scared," Statham said. "All the people in my life gave me support and helped me through, and I saw I really had to just be strong for them.

"God puts everyone through challenges for a reason. I'm ready for whatever will be thrown at me next."

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