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Focusing on Perseverance and Winning In a Different Way

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SUNY New Paltz basketball player Nick Paquette lines up for a jump shot in a game. Photo courtesy Reid Dalland.

Nick Paquette in action. Photo courtesy Reid Dalland.

Life changing health issues aren’t usually top of mind for a typical college student athlete. They’re concentrating on balancing academics, training, and competition to be the best at their game. But when a health issue does arise, those most competitive athletes often bring the best stories of accomplishment to us.

Late into sophomore year Nick Paquette, a student athlete for the SUNY New Paltz men’s basketball team, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer; Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Since then Paquette, now a junior, has fought his way back to a normal life.

In 2017, Paquette worked hard over the summer to get back into basketball shape, and although he will have to live with the disease for the rest of his life, he found himself ready to get back on the court and prove to everyone he can still play. Midway through the season, we found out that the impact Nick was making went well beyond Division III SUNY New Paltz all the way to one of the big teams in NCAA Division I athletics. Nick has a connection to University of Texas second-year guard Andrew Jones that will impact them both for the rest of their lives.

A connection through cancer

Paquette and Jones were both diagnosed with Leukemia at the young age of 20 in the midst of promising collegiate basketball careers. Paquette was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer, Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, on April 29, 2017. Since then, he has had a hematological response, meaning that his white blood cell count has returned to normal and is still being treated for molecular response, but he has made great progress.

Andrew Jones, however, began his journey just a few weeks ago. Jones, an NBA prospect averaging 13.5 points for the Texas Longhorns this year, missed four games with an undisclosed illness, after which the University of Texas released a statement from his family regarding his diagnosis.

Paquette heard about Jones’ case as he was leaving practice one afternoon following a text message he received from his mother, sharing the article. After attempting to contact the University of Texas Athletic Department, Nick’s mother, Roxanne Paquette, got in touch with college basketball writer Jeff Eisenberg at Yahoo Sports in order to send a message of hope to Jones and his family.

Soon after the letter was published, the Paquette’s were contacted by the Jones family. Roxanna said she was nervous at first when Jones’ godfather reached out, because they wanted to send Jones the most respectful letter possible, but the families exchanged nothing but tears and well-wishes since.

“The reaction has been terrific so far,” Nick said. “Everything I’ve been hearing about him is very positive, I’m just trying to share a positive message and everyone I come in contact with is just amazed at how well this is being received.”

“No one on this team fights alone,” Roxanne said. “Leukemia has met its match and we can’t wait to see [Jones] walk back on the court to play!”

Shortly after the story on Yahoo news ran, the Paquettes received another surprising phone call, this time from ESPN. Nick Hetherington, a feature producer at ESPN’s Longhorn Network, reached out to Nick wanting to do a segment on him and Andrew Jones. Nick agreed, and on Jan. 27 a camera crew arrived at the Athletic and Wellness Center at SUNY New Paltz.

Video thumbnail frame of Nick Paquette walking into SUNY New Paltz Events Center.

Watch the complete video interview with Nick on ESPN’s Longhorn Network.

 

ESPN spent hours with Nick gathering footage, reading his letter and conducting a very emotional interview. You can watch that interview in via ESPN and the Longhorn Network.

In his letter to Jones, Paquette recalled his own struggle, shock and terror at the time of his diagnosis.

“I read that you experienced persistent fatigue and exhaustion in the weeks leading up to your diagnosis. I know all too well what that’s like,” he wrote. “Every day last season, I felt tired and lethargic. I lacked my usual strength and explosiveness during games and I’d come out of the locker room afterward sunken-eyed and ghostly pale. I’m 6-foot-3, and I often didn’t even have the energy to try to drive to the hoop or dunk.”

Although Nick said he was terrified of his diagnosis, he was reassured by doctors that he would make a full long-term recovery and would even be able to return to the court if his body was able. In his letter, he offered Jones similar reassurance.

Also written in his letter, Nick wrote about not having an example to follow. He didn’t know of a fellow basketball player dealing with the same diagnosis. So, he took his recovery day-by-day, little-by-little and was cleared to play by his first game this season Nov. 17. Now, more than halfway through his season, Nick said he felt the best he’s felt in two years.

Looking into the future

His message to Andrew was to continue the fight, push through the tough days and stay positive. Nick said he hopes to see Andrew back on the court starting for the Longhorns next season and a subsequent, successful career in the NBA.

Nick’s time in the spotlight has given him time to put his experiences into perspective and help him cherish the opportunities he has presented to him moving forward. It’s an attitude that he hopes he can share with anyone who hears of his story.

“Stay positive. Always have a positive mindset,” Nick says. “If you think you’re going to get better and get past something like this, you’re going to. Your body will listen when you think positive. You always have to look on things on the bright side.”

“Don’t let Leukemia stop you from doing something that you love.”


Elements of this post originally published by SUNY New Paltz athletics and the New Paltz Oracle.

Taras Kufel

Written by Taras Kufel

Taras Kufel is the Manager of Digital Engagement at the State University of New York.

March 15, 2018

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Athletics

Mascot Madness Champion, Hugo the Hawk, Speaks on His Victory and Getting Back to Work

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SUNY Mascot Madness winner - Hugo Hawk from New PaltzThe first ever SUNY Mascot Madness came to a close yesterday with over 300,000 votes cast over the entire competition.  In a race that was too close to call initially, Hugo the Hawk from New Paltz was declared the winner of the first SUNY Mascot Madness over Wolfie the Seawolf from Stony Brook.  In a race to the finish, he met the library dean, cleaned the campus, and hung out with many students on campus.

We were able to catch up with Hugo and get his thoughts on the final round of the competition.

What responsibilities do you carry as SUNY Mascot Madness 2013 Champion?  What’s next for you?

As the SUNY Mascot Madness 2013 Champion, it is my duty to represent all that this title stands for. I will continue being the best mascot I can possibly be and keep getting better at it each day.

What will you do with all of your free time once SUNY Mascot Madness 2013 is complete?

With this free time I will get back to the basics. I will work on my cheers and dances and keep myself in tip-top shape for all the teams I root for. I will work hard to earn my place in next year’s tournament and make sure I do my best to defend my crown.

 

And we look forward to next year’s competition with you Hugo!

Hugo Hawk with Mascot Madness championship trophy

Emily Schwartz

Written by Emily Schwartz

Emily Schwartz is the Coordinator of Open SUNY Communication and Projects.

April 5, 2013

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Bobby Hurley Named University at Buffalo Men’s Basketball Head Coach

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Bobby Hurley has been named the 12th head men's basketball coach at the University at Buffalo.

Bobby Hurley has been named the 12th head men’s basketball coach at the University at Buffalo.

Bobby Hurley, one of the most iconic figures in college basketball history, has been named the 12th head men’s basketball coach at the University at Buffalo.

He joins UB from the University of Rhode Island, where he has been serving as associate head coach. He was hired as an assistant coach at Wagner College in 2010, and spent two seasons with the Seahawks, playing a critical role in rebuilding the men’s basketball team. He helped lead Wagner to a 25-6 record during the 2011-12 season – its best record in school history – before joining Rhode Island.

A first-team All-American in 1993, Hurley is best remembered for being the point guard at Duke. Hurley helped lead the Blue Devils to three Final Four appearances and consecutive national championships in 1991 and 1992. Hurley still holds the NCAA record for career assists with 1,076.

Following his outstanding career at Duke, Hurley was selected by the Sacramento Kings with the seventh pick in the 1993 NBA Draft. He went on to play five years in the NBA with the Kings and Vancouver Grizzlies.

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Athletics

SUNY Oneonta Senior Sets Off on 4,200-Mile Cross-Country Bike Adventure

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Jayme Haynes biking in Central Bridge on her cross country adventure

Jami Haynes sets off from her home in Central Bridge, NY, on Tuesday, May 28.

SUNY Oneonta senior Jami Haynes set off on a 4,200-mile, cross-country bike adventure today with the goal of raising awareness about the Harvest of Hope Foundation, an organization that provides emergency assistance to migrant workers and their families. Haynes, 21, accompanied by her boyfriend and sister, left early Tuesday morning from her home in Central Bridge, N.Y.

An avid runner and hiker, Haynes got the idea for the “Miles for Migrants” bike tour after Harvest of Hope founder and President Phil Kellerman visited one of her education classes, taught by Madeline Berry, this past semester. Her 20-year-old sister, Jena, signed on for the adventure, and then her boyfriend, Caleb Grippin, 23, joined the team.

Jena Haynes, Caleb Grippin, Jami Haynes with bikes

SUNY Oneonta student Jami Haynes (right) with her sister, Jena, and boyfriend, Caleb Grippin.

“I wasn’t very familiar with what a migrant farm worker was and how they contributed to American society, and I was especially touched as a future educator by the support that Harvest of Hope gives to these families and the scholarships that the foundation provides,” Haynes said.

The class did a service-learning project to benefit Harvest of Hope, and Haynes kept the momentum going. She and her sister organized a spaghetti supper, several bake sales and a raffle, as well as giving presentations about Harvest of Hope on campus and in the community. “Spreading awareness of the foundation and how it helps migrant farm workers has been extremely rewarding,” Haynes said. “The community definitely knows a lot more about the contributions of migrant workers because of this project.”

Haynes hopes to continue raising awareness by meeting with media outlets during her journey. The trio plans to ride about 60 to 80 miles per day, camping and staying with friends and family members en route to San Francisco. They have been training for the trip for about three months, logging several hundred miles of short and long rides.

The Harvest of Hope Foundation was established in 1997, when Kellerman worked at ESCORT, a migrant education resource center based at SUNY Oneonta. In addition to its affiliation with ESCORT, SUNY Oneonta has operated a College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) since 2001. Created in 1972, CAMP is a federally-funded scholarship program that helps students from migrant and seasonal farm-working families pursue higher education.

ESCORT senior programmer analyst Bob Thomas, a friend of Kellerman’s, loaned Haynes and her crew three touring bikes and trailers. Thomas, who completed a cross-country bicycling trip himself back in 1976, was on hand for the send-off Tuesday, offering last-minute tips and advice.

An elementary education major with a concentration in social studies, Haynes will share experiences from her trip this fall as a student teacher at Cobleskill Elementary School.

She will also chronicle her adventures throughout the 11-week journey on the blog: www.crazyguyonabike.com/sistahbikers.

 

SUNY Oneonta

May 28, 2013

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