GCA basketball coach uses life experience to inspire team to title win

GCA basketball coach uses life experience to inspire team to title win

WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Gray Collegiate head boys' basketball coach Dion Bethea loves basketball more than anything.

"It takes you a lot of different places and introduces you to a lot of great people," Bethea said.

Growing up in Columbia, the game of basketball might have bounced out of Bethea's life if it wasn't for his grandmother.

"I used to fight a lot," Bethea recalled. "My grandmother told me, 'You keep going in this direction, there's two places for you -- you'll be incarcerated or dead.  You can sit here and play basketball and go a lot of places or go the other route.'"

At 16 years old, Bethea listened to his grandmother and chose basketball. Years later though, he'd have to fight again. This time, he'd fight for his life.

"I started crying," Bethea said. "I was worried how much time I have left."

Bethea was diagnosed in 1997 with Hodgkin's Disease, which is a type of blood cancer.

"Once I did the research, I dealt with it," Bethea said.

At the time, Bethea was playing at Allen University. There, he refused to sit while in treatment to battle the disease.

"I didn't just want to give up and let it be an obstacle," Bethea said. "You can't let it beat you."

He learned that lesson after his best friend passed away.

"He was a crutch for me," Bethea said. "God felt it was the opportunity to take away and stand on my own."

With the support of his loved ones, Bethea beat cancer. Back in March, he used his story to inspire his Gray Collegiate players to complete their mission and honor their fallen friend, Tiquan Taylor.

"What a great way to honor Tiquan and his family by winning the championship," Bethea said. "Meant everything to me, the school, and the kids."

Bethea says his players are young men he will always support, no matter the obstacles in his way.

"We love them and I will be there for them as well."

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