Terry Rozier has never made a better turnover.
On Louisville’s second possession of its 82-57 exhibition victory on Sunday afternoon, the sophomore guard held the ball in front of his body and invited Bellarmine’s Patrick McSweeney to strip it away. McSweeney then dribbled the length of the floor unabated, missing an open right-handed layup but sinking a put-back from the right side seconds later.
Why did Louisville go out of its way to get McSweeney a basket? And why did the pro-Cardinals crowd stand and cheer when an opposing player put two points on the board? Because McSweeney is a 5-foot-3 15-year-old who has been in and out of hospitals and in and out of remission while fighting leukemia for the past 10 years.
McSweeney told WDRB’s Eric Crawford earlier this week that his relationship with the Bellarmine basketball team began when hegot involved with Team Impact, an organization that pairs seriously ill kids with their favorite sports teams. It would have been easy for McSweeney to choose high-profile Kentucky or Louisville but he instead picked Division II Bellarmine because they were closer to his home.
Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport was so moved by the request that he invited McSweeney to spend time with his players frequently last season and even gave him a locker in the team’s locker room. Then this summer, he hatched an even bigger idea — trying to get McSweeney the chance to play in a game during the 2014-15 season.
Davenport told WDRB, he cleared the idea with his compliance department, petitioned the NCAA and the ACC and pitched the notion to Louisville coach Rick Pitino. Once he had secured permission, he surprised McSweeney with a pair of team shoes and an invitation to play Sunday.
McSweeney played only a couple minutes and scored just the one basket, but judging from the gleaming smile on his face every time cameras panned to him, it was worth all of Davenport’s efforts. It was a terrific afternoon for a cancer-stricken kid who has endured far too many tough days during the past decade.
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