When Penn State looks for its first Big Ten win of the season against No. 11 Ohio State on Saturday, it’ll be faced with a few tests on the court, including Buckeyes playmaker Deshaun Thomas.
Thomas, a 6-foot-7 forward, leads the Big Ten in scoring with 20.5 points per game, and should prove difficult for the Nittany Lions to handle.
However, the nationally-televised game on ESPN2 will shed light upon a bigger challenge for not only the Lions, but those in attendance: cancer.
Penn State’s matinee contest with the Buckeyes at the Bryce Jordan Center will be the third annual Coaches vs. Cancer Band Together Day, and coach Patrick Chambers is looking forward to raising awareness.
“I mean [cancer is] still here. It hasn’t gone anywhere, so anything we can do to raise awareness and fight this thing is something we’ve got to do,” Chambers said.
The Coaches vs. Cancer program — a development by the American Cancer Society — encourages coaches, teams and communities across the country to raise awareness and funds in the fight of cancer.
Penn State’s CVC effort, which is in its 18th year, has raised nearly $2 million dedicated to research of the disease and to assist those who fight it.
Three dollars from each ticket sold along with the sales of gray “Band Together” t-shirts go straight to CVC.
And even though Chambers has been at the helm for less than two seasons, he’s been outward and vocal about the community’s involvement in CVC.
“It’s a special day, no question. We want those survivors that are going to be here to know that we got their back and that we believe in them,” Chambers said. “We’re going to help them along their journey and their path to make sure they get the best care they can get.”
Not only are the Lions, who will don their gray uniforms, invested in this game because of CVC, but cancer also hits home for members of the team.
Penn State guard D.J. Newbill felt the effects of cancer firsthand when his mother passed away in September, just weeks after being diagnosed with the disease.
The team has also been touched by the battle fought by Brandon Ream, a State College native and former Lions football player.
Ream, who is fighting cancer after discovering a cancerous tumor in his leg, sits courtside at most games and attends several practices and team events.
As Chambers puts it, there’s likely to be emotions surrounding Saturday unlike any other Big Ten game.
“[Cancer has] touched us all obviously, and it touches this community everyday,” Chambers said. “I just saw Brandon and my heart goes out to him. It affected our basketball team this year with D.J.’s mom and everybody knows somebody [affected by cancer], so that’s why I’m a big part of it.”