Sports Spotlight on Erron Collins and Josh Steckler | VideoAlexander Gorney | 3/6/2013
Josh and his family are hooked on hoops.
"It`s just my dad and my mom were basketball players and then I I tried it out once and I wasn`t very good but I just liked just being out there because it was a family thing. We would usually go out there and just play basketball," he said.
Mandan Braves guard Erron Collins also has lots of family ties to the sport.
"I`ve been surrounded by basketball my whole life. My sister played. My dad is a coach at Bismarck State."
These two athletes share more in common than a passion for the game. They also share surgery scars on each other`s midsection.
"Well for the last several years it`s been pretty difficult. His sister, his father and Josh all had, have hereditary pancreatis," said Josh`s mom, Beth Steckler.
Hereditary pancreatitis is a rare genetic condition that causes severe abdominal pain. Patients with this incurable condition also have a much higher risk of developing cancer. Josh`s dad was one.
"His father got pancreas cancer, fought it for three years. His sister had two transplants, three major surgeries. And Josh, he was getting sicker, his father passed in August and he had the transplant a month later. You know, you just wish kids didn`t have to go through that stuff. He`s been through too much, you know," Beth said.
As a child, Erron was diagnosed with Wilm`s Tumor Stage IV. The condition sent cancer to his lungs and liver. Erron had to have the tumor and a kidney removed while also going through two lung surgeries. Chemotherapy and radiation sent his cancer into remission. Erron went on to make the Mandan varsity basketball team as a freshman and was an All-West Region player last year. Erron, now a senior and healthy, but Josh was still missing school and had to stop playing on his traveling basketball team, the Heaters.
"For a long time I did not see him smile. Dad was gone. He felt he wasn`t getting any better," Beth said.
A friend who knew about Erron`s ordeal told Beth about him. It was around New Years this year when she set up a meeting between Erron and her son.
"First thing they did was show their scars," she said.
"Well he had a surgery, not like mine, but he had a surgery, and I had surgery. We both have scars and we both like basketball," Josh said.
"We both love basketball but outside of that there`s even more. We went through medical things the same stuff so it`s kind of nice and fun for both of us to bond that way," Erron said.
They hang out on the weekends to shoot hoops together and even have their own special handshake.
"They can both easily relate to each other, I`ve noticed that a lot, especially on the court, they just gel together," said Austin Tweet, Erron`s teammate.
"I just feel blessed that there`s people like Erron to help us out. Here`s a young a man, who`s an amazing basketball player, a great person, had health challenges also and he`s out on the court. I think that was really powerful for Josh to actually have that hope," Beth said.
"You can do so much things through basketball. You can make friends, you can meet new people, you can change someone`s life and I think that`s probably the most important thing. It`s as much fun for me as it is for him. I just we hope we keep in touch for the long run. He`s an awesome kid," Erron said.
Josh and his sister still struggle through pain of pancreatitis everyday. And it will be months before Josh`s family knows if his transplant worked.
"When I see him out there with Erron playing and smiling, I think he realizes that he`s going to get better physically and he can do this," Beth said.
Josh is going to school for a few hours each day and hopes to be back playing with his traveling basketball team in the summer. Erron and the Braves will be playing tomorrow in the WDA tournament quarterfinal against Bismarck.
BACK TO SPORTS SPOTLIGHT ARCHIVE