As a member of the Boston Celtics in the 1980s, Larry Bird won three NBA Championships and was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player three years in a row. His basketball prowess can be accredited to his incredible work ethic and drive, but there is one trait that Bird possessed that separates all of the best athletes apart from the rest- the ability to make his teammates on the court better. In basketball, each and every member of the team has a role that helps determine a team's success. Some players are relied upon to score clutch baskets where others are asked to battle under the basket in order to come up with the rebound. The Merrimack College men's basketball team is no different. The 13 members that make up the team's roster are all asked to play their role to the best of their ability – relying on their teammates to do the same. Yet unlike most basketball teams, there is one team member on the Merrimack squad who will never set foot on the court during a game but plays just as an important role as his 12 other teammates – 10-year-old Nick.
Nick is a 6th grader from Methuen, MA who on January 27, 2012 became the newest and youngest member to join the Merrimack basketball roster in the school's history. In September of 2011, Nick was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic system that is part of the immune systems that fights off infections and diseases. Hodgkins Lymphoma, like other blood cancers, requires treatment consisting of both chemotherapy and radiation. For Nick, this meant that upon his diagnosis in September, he would have to spend the next 4-6 months at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute receiving treatment, leaving behind his typical routine he once knew.
In order to receive chemotherapy, Nick had surgery to implant a port into his chest that allows the chemotherapy direct access to his blood supply. The port, which is under the skin, is then accessed by a two-inch needle that acts as an IV that supplies the life-saving medicine at each of Nick's treatment sessions. Following a grueling three month cycle of chemotherapy and steroids, Nick then moved on to a month of radiation which involved multiple visits a week to Dana-Farber requiring him to miss more school. Away from his friends and classmates and confused to why cancer had chosen him, Nick buried himself in the one thing that has always made sense – sports.
It is through Nick's love for sports that he became aware of Team IMPACT and soon thereafter became a member of the Merrimack basketball team. After being referred to Team IMPACT by Lisa Scherber, the Director of Patient and Family Programs at Dana Farber, Nick was matched up with the Merrimack basketball team and joined the 2011-2012 roster. On his Draft Day, Nick and his mom, Anne, met the team at a practice in their home gym, Hammel Court. Before heading out to the gym, Nick met with his new head coach, Bert Hammel, and was quickly covered from head to toe in Warrior navy and gold with t-shirts, a hat, and sweatshirt. Ready to meet the team, Nick entered the gym with butterflies in his stomach – both excited and nervous to meet his new teammates.
Any nerves that Nick had prior to walking through the gym's double-doors faded as he watched his 12 basketball-brothers take to the court to start practice. Within minutes, another member of the team that was not going to take to the court, the injured 7-foot center, Juan Rosich, came over to Nick and scooped him up to teach him how to control the clock for practice. Sitting with Juan, Nick could not help but smile as he helped keep track of the points and the time as the rest of their teammates worked through different drills and plays. Nick and Juan then started shooting baskets themselves- Juan towering over Nick as he shot, and Nick, with his Merrimack hat pulled down over his bald head, never losing focus.
Soon after practice ended, Nick was swarmed with by his teammates with high-fives, handshakes, and smiles. It was with those simple gestures between new teammates that a bond was formed. Nick was accepted into a very elite circle that only he and his twelve teammates are a part of. From that moment on, you could tell that Nick was looking forward to the rest of the season and being a Merrimack Warrior for life.