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MAC rallies in support of cancer-stricken Akron assistant

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

A beloved man in college basketball circles is enduring a hellish battle with one the grimmest of cancer diagnoses: pancreatic cancer.

Dan Peters is the director of basketball operations at Akron. Not even two months ago, he was given a 5-percent chance to live after doctors told him the life-altering news. Surgery to remove the tumor in his pancreas was not successful, and so now he is undergoing chemotherapy to overcome the hideous disease.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday is the annual Coaches vs. Cancer awareness weekend in college basketball, where nearly every coaching staff will bring attention to the fight against all cancers by wearing sneakers on the sideline instead of typical dress shoes. Some schools, like Marquette, will wear different-colored uniforms as well.

And next Wednesday, against Ball State, Akron will be handing out purple "4 Pete's Sake" shirts. Patches have been sewn onto jerseys at Akron. Lapels will be adorned with a purple pin, signifying the fight against pancreatic cancer.

Per Akron officials, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Delta State, Eastern Michigan, Houghton College, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Ohio, Ohio State, St. Joseph's (Ind.) College, Toledo, Walsh College, Western Carolina, Western Michigan and Youngstown State will all show their support for Peters.

As will West Virginia, whose coach, Bob Huggins, has known Peters for decades.

And top-ranked Arizona will also be showing its support. Peters' son, Danny, is the assistant director of operations for the Wildcats.

Peters, 59, began chemotherapy this week. Akron coach Keith Dambrot told Yahoo Sports that Peters will be rotating work weeks, two on and two off, for the next six months. Inspiring and scary. Dambrot lost his composure during the National Anthem at a recent game, letting tears roll down his face after Peters came back for his first game since the diagnosis.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal, complications from the unsuccessful surgery led Peters to lose 20 pounds. He's been able to gain that weight back, and he'll need it for the fight ahead with chemo.

“I teared up when I saw him,” Dambrot said. “Before the game I had trouble emotionally. That sounds like I'm immature, but I struggled during the national anthem, during the starting lineups, when I first saw him. When one of your friends is stricken, everything else becomes secondary.” Peters is facing the longest of odds, but remains amazingly upbeat. “I get a little anxious because I'm not sure what's going to happen,” Peters said. “But the one thing I would say is whatever happens is OK. I believe God has always taken care of me. I'm in his hands. As much as I would like to live, that may not be the option. I have no regrets. I'm going to try as hard as I can to fight this. I know there have been a lot of people who have been praying and I'm very appreciative. I'm actually in a very good place, I guess.”

The school will distribute the first 3,000 fans at Wednesday's game with the "4 Pete's Sake" shirts.

Peters has been at Akron since 2009. Prior to that he was with Ohio State (2004-09) and Cincinnati (1999-2004) as an assistant coach. He coached Youngstown State in the 1990s.

 
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