May 2, 2008
My heart sunk when I heard the news of Tennessee guard Chris Lofton. He had a battle off the court with testicular cancer.
Think about it, last summer he was playing poorly and struggling in his attempt to make the Pan Am Games roster. Reports indicated he looked sluggish and overweight. Now the reports are out that Lofton was undergoing radiation after being diagnosed with the cancer.
All year there were questions about why Lofton's numbers slipped. As a junior (during the 2006-07 season) he averaged 20.8 ppg., shot 48-percent from the field and over 46-percent on his trifecta attempts. Last season, his final collegiate campaign, he averaged 15.5 ppg, shot around 40-percent from the field and 38.4 on three-pointers. In 2007-08, he was held to single figures in eight games. That doesn't sound like the Chris Lofton we learned to love, a clutch performer who could beat you from anywhere on the court.
Now we know why the numbers went down. It turns out Mr. Lofton was Mr. Courageous. Many people picked Lofton as a first-team All-America in the preseason and his stats showed that he didn't live up to that billing on the court. He had an All-Solid Gold season as a person, showing his courage and toughness. Lofton is a very special person.
It is great to learn that he is cancer free now. He is a winner in a bigger game than anyone played in the SEC, or even a Final Four. Lofton is a big-time winner in the game of life.
Wow, what a story down in Knoxville. Bruce Pearl has to be proud of the battle Lofton waged, and how tough he was. He received criticism for his inconsistent play and now we know why.
Sometimes the world of the media doesn't understand when personal problems are involved. It takes a lot to realize that a player has a major distraction and there is a reason why he cannot focus and concentrate. There is a factor that keeps him from being the player he's expected to be.
We fail to realize we're talking about human beings that have the same problems as everybody else. I hope that Lofton can have the best happen for him in the future.
Lofton is Captain Courageous in my book.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.