Coaches vs. Cancer brings basketball world together

Coaches vs. Cancer brings basketball world together

Coaches vs. Cancer brings basketball world together

Various cancer-related fundraising efforts are something in which District 2 basketball programs can take great pride.

By John Bucci,

The basketball world is united again this week, as it is for one special week each year.

It is Coaches vs. Cancer Week nationally and, more specifically, for the 11th year it is also Coaches vs. Cancer Week in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Weather altered the schedules and moved some of the special events into next week, but the inconveniences will not slow a cause this significant.

The 11th annual Pink Game, involving the Abington Heights girls basketball program, was moved from Thursday to tonight.

When North Pocono plays at Abington Heights tonight, and WQMY TV Channel 53 will be there. The television broadcast, which starts at 7 p.m., will include some of the pregame activities prior to tipoff.

Abington Heights and Scranton Prep played for nine straight years before Abington Heights went to North Pocono for last year’s game that raised more than $35,000 for the Foundation for Cancer Care.

On a more widespread level throughout all of District 2, the Coaches vs. Cancer of NEPA has raised nearly $2 million dollars through efforts from every school in the district. What started as a single Mountain View at Lackawanna Trail boys game grew quickly and, in its 11th year, gets boys and girls teams from all over the Lackawanna League and Wyoming Valley Conference involved.

The games become secondary for a night in each gym and that is perfectly fine. In fact, it’s inspiring.

High school players who battle intensely against each other are not opponents. They’re working for a cause together while playing against each other. Their games bring communities together and the efforts of the players, coaches and officials use the interest their sport draws to call attention to the fight against cancer.

The activities at the games – from simple raffle and T-shirt sales to emotional ceremonies involving cancer survivors – put into perspective why we’re all gathered together.

Casey Cathrall was one of my AAU basketball players at the same time he played for Andrew Kettel’s Lackawanna Trail teams early in his high school basketball career.

Joe Cathrall, Casey’s father, was a great man. He was diagnosed with cancer and everything went into a tailspin for his family. It all happened so quickly.

Kettel came forward to do something with fundraising efforts for one game to help a family we could see hurting one time.

The thing is, he never stopped there.

The current Scranton Prep boys coach, with help from his wife Bridget, from opposing coaches and many more in the basketball community, spread the effort around the league, then around the district.

The Coaches vs. Cancer NEPA cause has ballooned into a wonderful thing we have now for one week every year. And, the efforts to make it work extend well beyond that week.

Cancer affects everybody. My mother didn’t die from cancer, but she died while in recovery.

Go to a game tonight and you are likely to be there with 100 people who are affected.

People who know basketball know Jim Valvano and his story. His words helped push the effort nationally. His efforts, and his speech, are remembered at a few prominent events each year to keep spreading the message.

Give Kettel credit locally. A lot of guys talk about doing something, but very few go and do it.

Andrew took something and built it. And, he has brought the rest of the us in the basketball community with him.

We should all keep going this week and in future years to continue a tradition unlike any other in local high school sports.

Those fighting cancer who you already know about or those you learn about while attending games need it as do those who will find themselves in the same fight in the years ahead.


LOOKING BACK: John Bucci’s column debuted in December. It appears each week on If you missed the earlier columns, you can find them here:

See what coach Bucci had to say about what to watch this season at

The importance of non-league scheduling:

The emergence of freshmen:

Developing more than one skillset:

Looking forward to the first WVC tournament:

Players can earn the shots they want.

The mysteries to be solved in the second half of season.