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22-year-old won’t let cancer stop him from playing in Hoopfest

When he was initially diagnosed with stage-four brain cancer in 2010, Joey Cawyer was told to expect to never play Hoopfest again.

He was also told he had one year to live.

More than two years later, the 22-year-old Cawyer is back on the streets of downtown this weekend, with Zoltan teammates Andrew Peterson and Nathan Lewis, playing in the 23rd annual Hoopfest for the 13th time in 14 years.

“I feel really, incredibly blessed to be back again this year,” Cawyer said. “They told me I wouldn’t be here. It means the world to me that I’m playing again.”

On April 29, 2010, Cawyer learned he had a glioblastoma multiform tumor. The Cheney High grad, who was a member of the Community Colleges of Spokane soccer team at the time he was diagnosed, and was told that his cancer was severe and the outcome was pretty bleak.

But one of the worst parts – for Cawyer – was sitting out of the world’s largest 3-on-3 outdoor basketball tournament in 2010.

“Joey has been through massive amounts of radiation and two different types of chemotherapy,” his mother, Cindy Anderson wrote. “But that did not stop him for being there for his friends and sitting alongside the games at Hoopfest.”

Joey stunned doctors a year after the initial diagnosis when the tumor had nearly gone away, and he returned to Hoopfest as a player last year. But throughout the past year, Joey’s cancer has made a comeback, and his family – which is running out of treatment options – is trying to raise money for a newer kind of treatment in Texas.

“When we first heard about the treatment, Joey said, ‘Forget it, we don’t have that kind of money,’” Anderson said. “I told him he was crazy and that I’d knock on 35,000 doors and ask everyone for a dollar if I have to. You can’t put a price on my son’s life.”

An account for Cawyer has been set up at Spokane Teachers Credit Union under the Joey Anderson Cawyer cancer fund.

He’s helped build this event

As one of the original members of the board behind the backboards, Dave Jackson has seen 23 years’ worth of changes at Hoopfest.

“I remember building backboards out of wood and setting that first one up,” said Jackson, a teacher at Lewis and Clark, who is in charge of on-site maintenance engineering this weekend.

“There were 36 courts back then and we had no designs of it turning into what it is today,” he said. “But we did know we had something nobody else did.”

That being the downtown setting the city of Spokane provides each year for the tournament, which has grown from just over 2,000 players to more than 28,000 players on 456 courts.

“Aside from the growth, I think what has changed most is the quality of basketball in the city,” Jackson said. “Spokane has become a hotbed for talent, we take pride in being a basketball town, and this is the grassroots version of that.

“It’s hoop city, man.”


Isaiah Thomas (Sacramento Kings) and Nate Robinson (Golden State Warriors) signed autographs in the Elite Sports tent, while Gonzaga’s Gary Bell, Kevin Pangos, Sam Dower, Haiden Palmer and Taelor Karr signed autographs at the Battle in Seattle booth. … Today’s autograph sessions will feature four more players from Gonzaga. Beginning at 10 a.m., Kelly Olynyk, David Stockton, Jazmine Redmon and Danielle Walter will be at the Battle in Seattle booth.

Tags: Hoopfest