Taylor Statham Beat Cancer, Now He’s Playing College Ball at Cal State San Bernardino

Taylor Statham walked into high school as a 5’9, 130 pound shooting guard with no idea what kind of road his basketball career would take. At his size and with the skills of a wing player, the odds were not in his favor to become a college basketball player. But he had always dreamed of playing basketball at the highest level he possibly could.

Things looked good for Statham after he had an Anthony Davis-esque growth spurt in high school. He shot up to 6’6″ by the time he was a senior, but did not get much of a chance to show off his game.

He had to sit out a majority of his junior year at Golden Valley High School in Santa Marita, Calif., due to transfer rules, and could only play during the playoffs. During his senior year, however, Taylor helped lead the Golden Valley Grizzlies to a 24-6 record while averaging 16 points and seven rebounds per game.

Statham and his family decided after not having been able to play much high school basketball, he would take a post-graduate year at Westwind Prep (Ariz.). Westwind featured many college-bound players, including current Providence guard Kiwi Gardner.

During the fall of his postgraduate year, Taylor worked hard to add to his skinny frame. He put on 25 pounds and, at 6’6″ and 210 pounds, he had reached the perfect size for a shooting guard and he even began to garner the interest of some local college coaches.

And then, something strange happened.

During a pre-season scrimmage, Statham was kneed in the groin while taking a charge. He expected the pain to go away after a few minutes, but the pain remained for weeks.

Statham, always known for his toughness, played on. When his parents came to visit him one weekend in November, his mother decided it would be best for him to visit a doctor. That is when Statham discovered that he had testicular cancer. His doctor told him that he would need surgery but would be able to avoid chemotherapy. Despite his worries, he continued to play.

Statham standing Tall; After beating cancer, the California native now moves on to play college basketball at Cal State San Bernardino.

“After I found out I had cancer, there was a big tournament we were playing in with a lot of scouts,” said Statham. “I had to play in it because I knew it was important for our team and for my recruitment.”

Statham played and his team went 4-0. He continued to play in December but when he went home for the holidays, his doctor revised his diagnosis and told him that he would need chemotherapy after all. The next few months would be that hardest three months of Taylor’s life, as the chemotherapy took a heavy toll on him.

“At one point I never thought I’d play basketball again,” said Statham. “There was a point when I was really depressed and it was hard to see my friends out living their lives while I was sitting in a chair all day having my insides being destroyed.

“The frustrating thing is that I would do the chemo for six to eight hours and then I would go home and feel terrible. My family was great though. Through the whole entire thing my mom was holding my hand and my dad would bring me food. They really kept my spirits up. They helped me to keep pushing myself.”

Throughout his treatment, Statham would watch as many basketball games and mixtapes as he could get his hands on. This helped keep his mind on the end goal of playing basketball at the highest level possible.

“I thought to myself, ‘I have to play basketball again,'” he said. “I want to go to college. I want to make something of my life.”

With a steadfast determination, he willed his way to recovery. It was not easy but once he recovered, he was eager to return to the basketball court and was back before the season ended.

“The kid is probably the mentally toughest kid I’ve coached and I have been coaching for twenty years,” said former Westwind coach Scott Lovely. “He came back right after having cancer and did not even want to get taken out of the games. He has a motor that just never stops.”

Taylor ended up earning his college scholarship. He went on to play at California Baptist University on a full scholarship (unfortunately, things did not work out well at CBU, but Taylor now is on a full ride to Cal State San Bernardino).

Statham will now pursue a degree in business while playing basketball, which was his ultimate dream. It required hard work, perseverance, and determination, but it all paid off in the end. Now Taylor talks at cancer events whenever he gets the chance and mentors young basketball players in his community.

“I always tell kids that tough times don’t last but tough people do,” he said. “Don’t ever stop dreaming. Your dream is only going to go as far as you take it.”

Sure enough, he achieved his dream and cancer could not even stop him.

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