After surviving cancer, basketball is a breeze for top Cabrillo player
By Bryce Stoepfel
Cabrillo College forward Brett Reed, 20, is looking great these days. Heís the 2016 Coast South Conference Most Valuable Player and has been one of the best players on a team thatís won their conference two years in a row. †
Five years ago though, it was a different story. †
When Brett was 16 he was diagnosed with cancer. He beat it and the experience has helped him develop a zest for life.
ìBrett eats life,î said Cabrillo head coach Tony Marcopulos.
The son of Joanne and Rick Reed, Brett grew up in Woodlands Texas, a fairly affluent suburb of Houston. His upbringing was pretty typical for a young athlete. Basketball in the backyard with dad and AAU ball in the summer with friends, life was about as normal as one would expect for a young high school athlete.
At 16 years old, Reedís life changed in an instant. Basketball took a back seat and a struggle of life and death began. †
ìIn 2012 going into my sophomore year, I was at a church camp, I found a lump in my head, one behind my ear and one under my arm. I had three tumors. I didnít know what they were at the time. We did a biopsy and it came back a week later and they said I had non-Hodgkinís Lymphoma,î Reed said. ìBasically I had a 40 percent chance of death.î
He was admitted into Texas Childrenís Hospital in Houston. Reed endured a cycle of chemotherapy treatments where he received treatment for three weeks at a time, interspersed with time at home for recovery. This went on for eight months. †
ìThere were numerous times when I almost died due to infections. I was neutropenic, which left me vulnerable to disease.
It was my lymph nodes that were hurt and thatís what prevents disease,î Reed said. ìChemotherapy doesnít go in and heal cancer. It kills the cells. All my lymph nodes got blasted.î
Reed lost his hair. He was ill and would often throw up five times a day. The support of family and friends helped him to pull through. So did the desire to get back on the basketball court.
ìI really wanted to play basketball again. Thatís what I wanted to do,î Reed said. ìI just got back into my life. Half a year after that summer I started playing again. I was super out of shape. I hadnít played in so long. I would play for twenty minutes and throw up. I was exhausted.î
†With the help of friends from AAU basketball he worked back into playing shape. By the time his junior season began, he was ready to go.
The next season was a basketball revelation. Reed hit a growth spurt, grew his hair long and led the College Park High Cavaliers to a 32-6 record. †
Following Reedís senior season several offers from Division II schools were extended, but no substantial Division I scholarships materialized.
Late in his senior year Reed was contacted by Cabrillo assistant coach James Page. Reed and Page spoke on the phone and a bond was quickly established. After speaking with Marcopulos, Reedís decision was made.
ìRight from there it just clicked,î Reed said. ìI wanted to come out to California. I wasnít getting Division I scholarships. I knew I wanted to go to junior college.
Marcopulos is also a cancer survivor. In 2009 it was discovered that he had kidney cancer. The common experience helped to establish a bond, but they found different ways to view life.
ìI really enjoy my job much more that I did before. Iím lucky to do what I love,î Marcopulos said.
Reedís game has progressed significantly since high school. In addition to size, the sophomore has added the ball handling skills of a guard to his repertoire.
ìI handle the ball like a guard sometimes,î Reed said. ìThatís whatís unique about me. I play like a guard and forward. In high school I didnít play like that at all.î
Hard work and the basketball IQ provided by Marcopulos has made a difference.
ìHe knows more about basketball than anyone Iíve ever talked too. Everything he says is respected immediately by everyone in the room,î Reed said. ìHeís an old school kind of guy.î
When watching Reed play, itís evident that he has a gusto for life. Whether flying through the air grabbing rebounds, wrestling on the floor for loose balls, sinking a long three point shot or slamming an enthusiastic dunk; he exudes the verve of a survivor who doesnít take his time on the court for granted.
Reed has approached life with gusto and Marcopulos feels confident in his future.
ìHe doesnít want to sleep. He doesnít want to miss anything. He wants to live everyday to the fullest,î Marcopulos said.