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Extras from the John Rhodes story

Written by Craig Meyer on .

Yesterday, I got the chance, along with a few other reporters, to sit down and speak with Duquesne assistant John Rhodes about his experience battling cancer and coming back to basketball. More than anything else, John wanted to share his story in the hopes that it inspires others who may be facing a similar, life-altering obstacle.

I had a story about it in today's Post-Gazette, but there's so much more to John and what he endured. As many of you know -- or at least I hope you know -- space in the newspaper is limited and shrinking, so being given only 15-16 inches (or about 550 words) to tell such a compelling, inspirational tale can be a little bit difficult.

I typically only do this kind of follow-up for longer stories, but I've got some notes and quotes from people who we spoke with Thursday about John and his road to where he is now, cancer-free and back with the team.

 


JOHN RHODES

 

How do you feel to be in the position where you are now?

“More than fortunate, I feel blessed. To deal with the number of things I dealt with over the past few months, to be where I am now, in front of everyone and able to share my story, it’s beyond an honor and a privilege.”

On receiving the news

“I’ve dealt with a lot with my family and I’ve lost friends, but for me, it was one of those things when Dr. Anish and Victor Bauer, the athletic trainer, sat me down and said this is what it is, it’s hard to process. It was very difficult.”

“Being in Pittsburgh and having UPMC, I feel like I’m a part of one of those commercials, those happy stories they tell. Every time I see one of those, I get goosebumps.”

On what he believes he can do now that he has recovered

“I believe that’s my purpose in life, is to help others. That’s the best attribute I have to share with people. That’s the way I am. That’s the way my DNA works.”

“This is all bigger than basketball. This is about life. If my challenge helps you deal with an obstacle or hurdle down the road, that’s part of my purpose for being here.”

On being hit by a car days after receiving his cancer diagnosis

“That worried me. The sooner we could get it treated, the better chance we have to stop it. I was like ‘Damn, man, why does that happen?’ I guess it’s timing. It wasn’t time for me to start my treatment.” 

On the importance of having a team and community to support him throughout

“That’s the beauty of this environment. Everybody put their hands around me and helped me get through it.”

“I felt like every day it was going to be tough, but I wasn’t going to let the physical strain of losing my ability to swallow and losing my ability to eat bother me.” 

On what it will be like to return to the bench for the team's first game of the season

“Coming to practice, I just sat back and took it all in. When I had to step away, that took a lot out of me. The number of people that have been there to support me I’m sure are going to come out and be there like they have been. I hope I can keep it together.”

 


JIM FERRY

 

On what was happening right before the diagnosis

“Once the test results came back that it wasn’t the mumps, you could sense that John had a little concern. We both looked at each other and were like ‘It’s great that it’s not the mumps, but what could it be?’”

On how difficult it was to watch John knowing there was little he could do

“It was horrible seeing John go through that day by day without being able to take it for him. I remember there were days when I called and said ‘I wish I could take today for you.’ People who know John know what I’m talking about, it’s really unfortunate because he’s one of the most positive people in the world. Even through his battle, he would be positive with us. If I would say ‘Hey, man, how are you doing?’ he’d say ‘C’mon, man, I’m fine.’ He would just have this positive approach to it. I’d go sit with him at his house and just sit there. Some days we’d talk. On others, he would take a nap. We’d just sit there and be by his side, just to let him know we’re there for him.”

On a scare John received near the end of his chemo and radiation treatments

“He had hit rock bottom. That was the first time I really got scared. All of those other times, he was so positive and independent and wanted to do everything himself. That first time I walked in was the first time I looked like ‘Oh my god, is this it?’ But then he went from that point to recovery. It was scary. It put a lot of things in perspective as a father, a friend and a coach. It put everything in perspective, to see what he had to go through with the dignity, strength and courage that he fought it with every day. There’s nothing worse than seeing a family member go through that stuff. And he is a family member. My mom was cooking him meals to make sure he had enough protein and nutrition. Everybody was checking in on him, whether it was family members or friends. I still have a memento on my desk that I keep. It’s the patron saint of cancer, Saint Peregrine. A booster gave us these for our staff and for John and his family. I keep one on my desk and I keep one in my bag I travel with every day. Little things like that, to see people come out and help, was really something. He’s a special guy.”

On what he learned about John

“He’s one of the strongest and mentally toughest human beings I’ve ever met in my life. The way he approached this, he was so positive. He was still looking and caring for other people, making sure everyone was alright. His approach to doing it was he was going to beat it.”

“He kept his positive approach to life and everybody else. He never stopped caring about everybody else. That’s just the type of person John is. Believe me, it’s scary seeing him go through that, but when you got to see him, you were like ‘Wow, he’s going to beat this.’”

“I’m proud to call him a friend and I’m proud he calls me a friend. I’d do anything for that guy.”

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

“I’ve dealt with a lot with my family and I’ve lost friends, but for me, it was one of those things when Dr. Anish and Victor Bauer, the athletic trainer, sat me down and said this is what it is, it’s hard to process. It was very difficult.”

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Empty Netter Assists - More penalty killing for Crosby and Malkin? - 10-02-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-How much will centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (abovebe involved on the penalty kill?

-Is right winger Pascal Dupuis still a candidate for the top line?

-Defensemen Steve Oleksy, Reid McNeill, Will O'Neill, forwards Dominik Uher and Kael Mouillierat cleared waivers.

-Why is the slot more important to the Penguins' power play than in previous seasons?

-Happy 69th birthday to former Pittsburgh Hornets and Penguins defenseman Doug Barrie. Acquired prior to the 1968-69 season in a deal which sent cash to the Red Wings, Barrie's Penguins career amounted to eight games and two points that campaign. After spending the entire 1969-70 season with the Baltimore Clippers of the AHL, Barrie was claimed by the Sabres in the 1970 expansion draft.

-Happy 58th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Gordie Roberts. Acquired prior to the 1990-91 season in a deal which sent a draft pick to the Blues, Roberts spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. In 1990-91, Roberts appeared in 61 games and contributed 18 points. In that spring's postseason, Roberts appeared in all 24 of the team's games, recorded three points and helped the franchise claim its first Stanley Cup title. Roberts played in 73 games in 1991-92 and scored 24 points. In the 1992 playoffs, Roberts saw action in 19 games and recorded two assists as the team successfully defended the Stanley Cup. In the 1992 offseason, he joined the Bruins as a free agent. In 134 regular season games with the Penguins, Roberts scored 39 points. In 43 postseason games with the franchise, he scored five points. In 1999, Roberts was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

-Happy 52nd birthday to former Penguins forward Tim Hrynewich. A second-round pick in 1983, Hrynewich spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 1982-83, Hrynewich appeared in 30 games and scored five points. In 1983-84, he played in 25 games and contributed nine points. Prior to the 1985-86 season, Hrynewich was traded to the Oilers along with Marty McSorley and Craig Muni in exchange for Gilles Meloche. In 55 games with the Penguins, Hrynewich scored 14 points.

-Happy 31st birthday to former Penguins forward Jonathan Filewich. A third-round pick in 2006, Filewich's entire NHL career amounted to five games and no points with the Penguins in 2007-08. Midway through the 2008-09 season, he was traded to the Blues for future considerations.

-Happy 28th birthday to current Penguins forward Phil Kessel. A veteran of nine NHL seasons with the Bruins and Maple Leafs, Kessel was acquired this past offseason along with Tyler Biggs, Tim Erixon and a draft pick from the Maple Leafs in exchange for Scott Harrington, Kasperi Kapanen, Nick Spaling and a draft pick.

-After the Jump: Can Jordan Staal regain his scoring touch?

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Slot taking on greater importance in Penguins' power play - 10-01-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

In addition to getting a chance to play on the left wing of the team's top line with center Sidney Crosby and right winger Phil Kessel last night, David Perron (above) saw some time on the first power play unit.

Perron was primarily positioned in the slot with the man advantage while Kessel was in the left circle and Crosby was on the right half wall. Additionally, defenseman Kris Letang was at center point while center Nick Bonino was a net-front presence.

Perron sees the slot role as having greater importance than in previous seasons.

“I think in the past, the guy that was there was kind of standing still not getting a lot of pucks,” Perron said. “It's almost like you have the guy [at] net front, you have the guy in the slot. If he doesn't move, that's three guys on the outside against four guys. So you're on the power play but you're not really at the same time.”

“I think for me, I talk with [assistant coach] Rick Tocchet [who coordinates the power play] and I want him to be on me a lot, to make sure I'm moving, that I pop down low, that I come high, almost as high as a defenseman. Then I think he's got to make sure guys use that position because it creates a lot of relief for a guy like [Crosby]. He's got a lot of pressure from both sides, one defenseman, one forward. If he [passes] it to me, I can go to [Kessel] or I can go right back to him and give him an extra second. That's the way we're going to approach it for this year."

(Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

 

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VIDEO: Pat Narduzzi talks Virginia Tech

Written by Sam Werner on .

Head coach Pat Narduzzi;

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Some top area players in new basketball event this weekend at Penn Hills

Written by Mike White on .

Donnie Johnson has been officiating basketball for 15 seasons. This weekend, he will turn high school basketball event organizer.

Johnson has put together the "Across County Showcase" at Penn Hills High School Saturday and Sunday. It is an event for high school players that will include some of the top boys and girls from the WPIAL and City League.

"I officiated some at an outdoor league in California [Pa.] this summer and thought there were some good players from those outlying areas that people don't know about," said Johnson. "So I decided to try and put together a 'cross county' basketball tournament and tried to reach out to at least one coach from several ares to get the best 12 players he can to come down and play a tournament."

Johnson ended up getting boys and girls teams representing seven different areas. The teams are Allegheny North, Allegheny South, Allegheny East, Mercer, Washington, Westmoreland and the City.

Plum's James Edwards, one of the WPIAL's top seniors who recently committed to Air Force, will play in the event along with Latrobe guard Sean Graytok and North Hills forward Ishmael Waldron, two other top seniors in the WPIAL. Some top non-seniors also will play.

Norwin's Alayna Gribble, a Pitt recruit, along with Penn Hills standouts Desiree Oliver and Jade Ely (Cleveland State recruit) are a few who will play on the girls side.

"I figured a lot of these kids beat on each other at these small leagues, so let's just see if we can get them all together and have some fun with a tournament," said Johnson.

Johnson will use both the old and new gyms at Penn Hills. The tournament, which is open to the public, begins at 9 a.m. Saturday. Each team will play two games Saturday. On Sunday, all teams will participate in a single-elimination tournament.

PBR showcase

Steve Brodzinski of the Pittsburgh Basketball Report is putting together an event for top players in the area next month. 

The Best of Pittsburgh Performance Camp will be Nov. 1 at Chatham University. The event will have 40 seniors, 40 juniors and 40 sophomores-freshmen. It is sort of a combine for players. Each group will work out and also play during a 2 1/2-hour period.

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