Arizona State Sophomore Sticks With Teammates

Oct. 10, 2000

By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The lines seem so tired and phony. A college basketball team is a family. A coach is like a second father.

For Justin Allen, a 19-year-old sophomore at Arizona State, the sentimentsare as real as the cancer discovered in his body 3 1/2 weeks ago.

Doctors say the odds favor a full recovery, and Allen and his family havedecided that his bond with the Sun Devils' program is so strong that he shouldstay in school and with his teammates while he fights the disease.

'It's more than just a team,' Allen said. 'We're a family. When I cameout here, I adopted new brothers. The coach is like my parent. His wife is likemy mom. She brought me tons of cookies in the hospital. I love it out here.'

Allen left a small high school in Malta, Ill., an hour's drive from Chicago,to join the rebuilding effort of coach Rob Evans in Tempe. He was one of sevenfreshmen who played for the Sun Devils last season, averaging 2.9 points and1.9 rebounds per game.

'I've been trying to fight some battles to get out of a small school andget to a big program, then once I get there this happens,' Allen said.

'Butit's one more hurdle that's going to make me stronger.

'In the long run, you never know, this could even be a blessing. I get onemore year to play, a fifth year, get a little older, maybe get stronger.'

Over the summer, Allen had beefed up his 6-foot-7 frame to 230 pounds. Then in late August, while working out in Illinois, he felt what he thoughtwas a pulled stomach muscle. Back at Arizona State, the team trainer noticedAllen was lethargic and losing weight.

On Sept. 15, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, one of two types oflymphoma, a cancer that attacks the lymph system.

The disease was detected early, and doctors give him a 90 percent chance ofrecovery.

'I keep thinking about Mario Lemieux and Andres Galarraga,' Allen said oftwo sports stars who successfully resumed careers after cancer treatment.

'They came back and had great years. I just want to get through this and gofor it next year.'

Allen said his mother initially wanted to take him home to Illinois. 'Once she came out here, she saw the support I had from everybody, saw thedoctors I had, she said there was no way she would take me home because it'ssuch a great situation out here,' he said.

The night Allen was diagnosed, Evans held a team meeting in the room ofplayer Chad Prewitt.

'It was a very tough night talking to those guys about it,' Evans said.'A lot of tears because these guys are very close. But after that we talkedabout making sure we were here for him, were strong for him and certainly theseguys will be.'

Allen has lost 30 pounds in the past few weeks. He began chemotherapytreatments last Friday, and they will continue every two weeks for four to sixmonths. That will be followed by several weeks of radiation treatment.

In the meantime, he plans to enroll in school and take 12 or 13 hours ofcredits. He wants to attend every practice, every game.

'I was scared at first,' Allen said, 'but with all the support I have -everyone's got my back - I know that I'm going to get through it. I've just gotto keep a positive attitude, and I'll be fine.

'I know I'm going to beat it. There's no doubt at all.'

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