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Lanierland: Tourney is more than basketball
Coaches wearing purple to promote cancer awareness
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This year’s Lanierland is a little bit about basketball and a lot about life.

In lieu of their normal sideline attire, each coach in the tournament will don purple polos as a way to promote cancer awareness, an idea created this summer by Hall County’s chapter of The American Cancer Society’s Leadership Council and unanimously approved by the coaches involved.

“Every coach tells the players there’s more to life than basketball,” Gainesville boys coach Todd Cottrell said. “This is a great way to show that.”

While Cottrell says he’s “blessed not to have lost anyone” to the disease, several teams in the area have first-hand experience with cancer, including North Hall’s Jazmine Hayes, who has leukemia, and East Hall’s Hunter Ward, who lost his mother to cancer during the second week of December.

“She’s a special member of our team, and she was just cleared to play basketball this week,” North Hall girls coach Kristi Wood said of Hayes, whose disease is in remission but still has to orally take chemotherapy. “It’s hard to talk to anyone who hasn’t been effected by cancer, and this is a great way to show unity throughout the county. It’s a pretty special thing.”

East Hall boys coach Joe Dix feels the same way. Along with having a player whose mother just passed away from cancer, Dix’s mother also died from cancer in 2001. Supporting a cause like this is worth it to the normally sharp-dressed Dix.

“I’ve never worn a polo at a varsity game, so that’ll be different,” he said. “But it’s certainly a great cause. Hunter just buried his mother and that has had a profound effect on our basketball team.”

Gainesville’s girls coach Manson Hill’s mother also died from cancer in 1972, and he’ll be wearing the purple polo in her memory.

West Hall boys coach Warren Sellers will be wearing purple in memory of Brian Ernst, a former athlete at West Hall who died of cancer earlier this year.“Anything we can do to promote awareness is good,” Sellers said.

Even if that means wearing purple?

“It was my high school color,” Sellers said. “It’s not my favorite color, but anything I can do to help, I will. I just hope they have one in my size, I’m pretty large.”

The shirts were donated by two anonymous donors who wanted to help promote cancer awareness in Hall County.

“I think it’s just great,” said North Hall boys coach Benjie Wood, who was diagnosed with skin cancer in 1995. “I didn’t give it a second thought once they asked if we’d do it.”

Lanierland director Ross Davis approached the coaches about wearing the polos and no coach hesitated when it came to supporting this awareness effort.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Hill said. “This cause is really important to us.”

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