Union Basketball Player Finds Strength On The Court During Father's Battle With Cancer

Tuesday, February 9th 2016, 7:01 pm
By: News On 6

Union’s Justin Harris never saw his dad play, but he’s heard a lot of people talk about him and how great he was.

Justin's father Steve was pretty good, so good his number 20 was retired at the University of Tulsa after a stellar college career under Nolan Richardson and then a five-year stint in the NBA. 

But a couple years ago Steve and Justin's relationship took a different turn.

“When I found out he had cancer, I didn't' know how to react,” said Justin. “It was hard to focus in practice; it was hard to do anything, really."

Steve was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Justin visits his father at St. John's as often as he can. Chemo treatments have taken its toll and Steve isn't as active anymore.

Instead of letting his father’s condition get him down, his fight has lifted him up.

"Even if you didn't know him, everybody liked his character,” Justin stated. "He's stronger than I am. I just hope that one day I can be at least half the man that he was."

And he says basketball feels like an escape although he does think of his father on the court. 

"Sometimes I think to myself, ‘What would my dad do in this situation?’ We used to practice all the time in the front yard, so I try to emulate what he did against me,” added Justin.

Since the court feels like home, the Union boys and girls teams partnered together for a Pink Out game last week to help bring awareness.

"My father passed away from cancer three years ago,” said Union boys head coach Rudy Garcia. “I've been there and I've dealt with it, so to have the community to help reach out and help support these families is huge."

For Justin, it was an emotional day. “Just to see that everybody in the whole crowd got involved, and I just wish my dad could have been there,” he said. “But it was a very touching experience.”

Justin will continue to think of his father, not as the great basketball player he was, but as a man who is teaching him to become a man.

"Every moment I spend with him I really do cherish,” said Justin. “I don't take it lightly. I hug him as much as I can. That's my best friend."

As Justin’s family asks for prayers, the kid Steve calls 'Rookie" will continue to play for him.