Elks Hoop Shoot This Saturday

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The Payson Elks club will host its annual hoops shoot tomorrow (Saturday) in the Tonto Apache gymnasium.

Registration begins at 9 a.m. and competition at 10 a.m.

Boys and girls 8- to 13-years-of-age may participate free of charge.

Each contestant is given 25 shots from designated locations on the floor. The boys and girls in each age group with the best score advance to the Elks North District competition next month. Winners there can advance to state, regional and national showdowns.

According to Elk officials, more than three million youngster from around the country compete in the Hoop Shoot each year.

For more information, call Bob Troutman at 474-8931.

Compassionate call

When I e-mailed a personal request to Arizona State University basketball coach Rob Evans last week, I doubted he'd be able to fill it. After all, his Sun Devil team was in the midst of a crucial PAC-10 stretch that included games against UCLA, USC and Arizona.

Evans is a very busy man who spends most of his waking hours trying to coach the Sun Devils into the NCAA tournament. Somehow, Evans managed to find time for me.

I asked Evans if he could have player Justin Allen call my 27-year-old nephew, Jacob Long, who recently learned he is suffering from lymphoma, or Hodgkin's disease. Justin waged his own battle against Hodgkin's last year.

I followed Justin's gut-wrenching story very carefully in the Phoenix newspapers and on television. When the Sun Devils played on TV, I scoured the bench to see if Justin was well enough to be with the team.

Although the chemotherapy and radiation he underwent ravaged Justin's 6-foot, 8-inch body, he recovered well enough this season to resume play. He's not a starter, but sees action when he's needed.

To my way of thinking, the fact that he's playing after battling cancer for a year is a miracle in itself.

When I e-mailed coach Evans, I told him I thought Justin's heroic story would do wonders to help inspire Jacob.

Monday night, I called my nephew's Mesa home to check on him. Although he wasn't available, his father told me that Justin had called Jacob a day earlier and the two had talked at length about the disease. Jacob's dad said the conversation did wonders for his son's spirit. From Justin, Jacob learned nuances of his treatment the doctor's didn't tell him.

Jacob, a father of one young son, began chemotherapy early this week knowing that Justin Allen, his new friend, was fighting the same war he was about to undertake.

And Justin is winning.

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