Imagine being a young college basketball star, well-liked by teammates and with promising future ahead of you, and then you learn that you have been diagnosed with cancer.
That is the reality for Northern Kentucky University student athlete Dustin Maguire, who in May learned that he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. He originally had the cancer removed and everything seemed to be back on the right path. However, in September, Maguire learned that the cancer had returned.
The news was tough for his friends and family, including his NKU basketball team.
“My initial reaction was tremendous sadness for everything he had been through the last year; he couldn’t catch a break,” head coach Dave Bezold said. “I felt bad for him that he was not going to be able to play his senior season because of the investment he has made in being a great basketball player.”
Before the news, Maguire was indeed a great basketball player. In the 2008-2009 season, Maguire averaged 15 points a game and led the nation with a three-throw percentage of .936, and earned All-American honors. The spotlight became more intense when Maguire scored 33 points, the night that NKU opened the Bank of Kentucky Center, against nationally-ranked Division I opponent Louisville. Maguire began the 2009-2010 season playing with the team, but suffered a back injury that ended his season earlier than expected. Without Maguire’s leadership, the Norse did not receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Not only did Maguire excel on the court, he did so off the court as well, as he was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Honors court for his student work ethic, and was entering his first year at NKU’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law.
“Dustin has always been such a great role model. He excelled on the court and off. He was always a straight-a student and was always the best player on the court,” sophomore forward Corey Sorrell said.
The role model that Maguire was has inspired his teammates for the upcoming season, as they must play without one of their star players. The team was still voted 4th in the preseason division rankings in the GLVC, and will play with Maguire in mind this season.
“The team understands how fortunate they are to have an opportunity to play because of his illness, and that is not always the case,” said Bezold.
Players still keep in contact with Maguire; however they prefer to stay on the topic of basketball rather than anything he is going through off the court.
“His cancer is a topic we usually avoid (talking about). We try and concentrate on the positive and stay away from what is on his mind all day every day,” said Sorrell.
Even though the team has lost an important player, they still think of Maguire as part of their team. Every game, they hang up his jersey in the locker room, as though he is suiting up with them, and junior guard Jon Van Hoose thinks about him before every tip off.
“I think about him every time the National Anthem is played. Dustin was the hardest-working kid I knew and if anybody can beat the disease, it is certainly him.”
Story by Shawn Bennett