About two years ago St. John’s University men’s basketball head coach Steve Lavin announced he had prostate cancer and would need surgery.
Lavin missed most of the following season and had a successful surgery and recovery, but for members of the university and especially the men’s basketball team, talking about cancer still hits home.
“Coach always talks about the struggle of it and the importance of giving back to the community and you can tell its coming from a good place,” said sophomore forward JaKarr Sampson.
With the most anticipated season in the Lavin era before them the men’s basketball team joined the women’s team to co-host the third annual St. John’s Dribble For The Cure on Saturday, in which more than 500 people participated and more than $55,000 was raised for pediatric cancer.
“It’s definitely special to beat an opponent like Villanova or a Notre Dame, but it’s even more rewarding to see our players participate in an event like Dribble For The Cure,” Lavin said. “We want to compete in every game, but helping find a cure for cancer is even a more worthy cause than winning a basketball game.”
At the event participants dribbled basketballs in teams around St. John’s campus. Teams and individuals also raised money prior to the event and donated it to the cause. The participants that raised the most money received autographed shirts and basketballs from St. John’s players and coaches.
Before the dribble tour there was a festival of free food, giveaways, games and performances from the St. John’s cheerleaders and the pep band. Then in the opening ceremony New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson made a guest appearance.
“It’s an honor to be here,” stated Woodson. “I had a sister who died of cancer many years ago, so I’m a big supporter of fighting cancer and finding a cure.”
Participants came from Queens and much farther to support the annual event.
Larry Kovacs, a St. John’s alum, and his family traveled from Pennsylvania for the second straight time to dribble around the campus. Last year his daughter Jenna, 5, was so young she couldn’t dribble the basketball and he had to carry her across the finish line. But this year Jenna dribbled the entire way by herself.
“We’re blessed with three healthy children and its just a way for us to give back and help others that are less fortunate,” Kovacs said. “It’s a very positive experience for us, it teaches good qualities and characteristics for our children.”