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Taking care of their own

Former Williamsport basketball players are raising money to help cancer patients

Former Williamsport basketball players are raising money to help cancer patients

February 18, 2009|By BOB PARASILITI

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WILLIAMSPORT -- Being a basketball player at Williamsport High School means something.

It is the closest thing to a college fraternity. Wildcats old and new have a special bond that seems to surface whenever a ball rolls out on the floor. They want to be out there again.

Any reason is a good one to meet and play together once more. Heck, they don't even need a reason. But former coach Kevin Murphy found a worthy one to get a bunch together for another game.

Murphy has organized a Williamsport alumni basketball night Saturday at 6 p.m. at Williamsport High School to benefit two Williamsport students who are fighting Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. The evening will consist of two games -- one with players from 1996-2008, the other with members of teams from 1969-1995 -- with all proceeds going to the families of Katie Stains and Josh Forsythe as a contribution to help in their fights against the disease. Admission to the event is $5.

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The whole event started with a spur-of-the-moment whim that hit Murphy.

"I was at a Williamsport basketball game in mid-January and the athletic director made an announcement about a collection being taken to help a Williamsport student with cancer," Murphy said. "Then I found out there was a second one. I was sitting there with (former players) Brad and Alan Moore and said maybe we could run an alumni game to help raise money for these families.

"It was a chance to bring some guys back for a fun night of basketball and to do something for the families. We're not going to make a million dollars, but every little bit can help."

From there, it became a case of speed dialing.

The word got out about the event and 52 players from the four decades committed to play in the game. Players are coming back home from Virginia, North Carolina and the Philadephia area to play for the cause ... and to get on the floor with old teammates again.

"We are going to let the young guys go out there and play first," Murphy joked. "That way there will be more oxygen out there later on for the older guys."

Pulling the event together -- the first alumni game at Williamsport since 2001 -- was difficult in the short time frame. Players needed to commit quickly so game programs could be printed.

The fun and games are the finishing touches on what has become a serious undertaking. The community began to rally around the game.

"Everything has been donated," Murphy said "The balls, the uniform shirts for the games and the food for the concession stand have been provided. We are going to sign the two balls and raffle them off, too. Even the officials are donating their time. So far, we have raised $2,500 from contributions from businesses and patrons and hopefully we can collect more."

The event hits close to home for Murphy.

"I am a cancer survivor and I can sympathize with what the families are going through," he said.

Murphy was the architect that helped build the Williamsport program to the level it enjoys now. His three sons are returning to play in the "old timers" game and many agreed to play when he called because of the guidance he had provided during their high school years.

The event shows Williamsport players are as true blue as their road uniforms.

"This all shows some Williamsport pride," Murphy said. "Anything the Wildcat basketball family can do to help, we want to do it."

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