Mississippi College

Coaches Versus Cancer Classic Opens Lady Choctaws Basketball Season at Golden Dome

November 12, 2012

Lady Choctaws basketball players lost family members to cancer, while others are battling the deadly disease.

That’s why the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Mississippi College on November 16-17 is really meaningful to players like Elizabeth Brooks of Hernando, Valeri Stewart of Starkville and Kristin Newsome of Jackson.

“It puzzles me to this day why we haven’t found a cure,’’ Brooks said moments before joining her teammates at practice Friday. “I hope we will someday.’’

MC faces teams like Berry College, Huntington, and Howard Payne in the hoops tourney sponsored by Zaxby’s. With students and others taking a shot at winning $20,000 in basketball shooting contests during four half-times this weekend at the A.E. Wood Coliseum, the tournament supports a great cause. The event will boost funding for the American Cancer Society to promote cancer research.

The statistics are grim. More than one million Americans get cancer every year,  reports the American Cancer Society. The disease kills 1,500 people a day. But with federally funded medical research and cancer prevention programs, progress has been made resulting in 350 more lives saved from cancer per day than in 1991.

Valeri Stewart’s aunt, Tracey Harvey of Picayune, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and is now undergoing a second round of chemotherapy in Texas, and may be unable to travel to the tournament in Clinton. Her grandmother, Dorothy Stewart of Picayune, died of lung cancer, says the 21-year-old social work major.

Valeri, Elizabeth, Kristin and her teammates are encouraging faculty, staff, students and family members to come to MC for the Coaches v Cancer Classic. MC will face Huntington in the second game of the tourney at 5 p.m. Friday.

“Most of my family is coming,’’ says Newsome, a 21-year-old Forest Hill High graduate who plays forward for the Lady Choctaws.

She’s lost grandparents, Idell Blanchard of Gulfport and Eddie Ruth Newsome of Prentiss to lung cancer. Her uncle, Charles Fortenberry, died of pancreatic cancer.

The fight against cancer has the attention of everyone from President Obama to members of Congress. Basketball coaches across the nation are involved. Coaches vs Cancer is a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Despite all these efforts, the disease still kills 570,000 people in America every year.

“This tournament means a lot to me,’’ Elizabeth Brooks says. Her grandmother, Annette Wheeler of Coldwater, has battled breast cancer the past eight years, and is a survivor thanks to modern medical treatments.  “She’s not letting it hold her back.’’

Organizers of the event are thrilled that Mississippi College is hosting the tournament.

“When the MC Lady Choctaws take the floor to face teams like Berry College, Huntington, and Howard Payne in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, they also will be playing a big role in the fight against cancer,’’ says Athletic Director Mike Jones. “It’s a disease that’s touched the lives of  many players, coaches and fans from coast to coast. We are delighted to host this basketball tournament for the first time, and hope to make it even bigger next year.’’

Jones and Lady Choctaws Coach Paul Duke also expressed their thanks to the tourney’s big sponsor, Zaxby’s, for getting behind this extraordinary event to kick off the MC hoops season. They hope that fans pack the Golden Dome Friday and Saturday.

“Students and others are invited to put their basketball shooting skills to the test to try to win $20,000,’’  says Duke, who starts his 18th season as the Lady Choctaws head coach.

“Come out and support the Lady Choctaws and a great cause,’’ says Jones, the former men’s basketball coach at Mississippi College.

For information on the Coaches vs Cancer Classic, contact Missa Turman at the MC Department of Athletics at 601.925.3341.

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