For guys like Antonio Singleton, every evaluation day in front of college basketball coaches in July is valuable.
Singleton, a 6-5 forward, will be a senior this year at North Central. He has one Division I offer, from Morehead State, and interest from programs such as Indiana State, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois and Wisconsin-Green Bay.
The July evaluation period is made for players like Singleton, a senior looking to make a final impression and earn a scholarship offer or two.
But Saturday, Singleton skipped the Adidas Invitational to spend the day with his sister. A day spent riding in a limousine, walking around at the Indianapolis Zoo and taking horseback lessons.
Faced with a choice, Singleton picked his sister.
“There was no doubt,” he said.
There is little that Faith Wilson loves more than watching her big brother play basketball. The 9-year-old with a bright smile and blue bandana was there in the front row Thursday and Friday at North Central to watch Antonio.
LeBron James is her favorite player. Even King James takes a back seat to Antonio.
But the quality she loves most about Antonio has nothing to do with his basketball ability.
“I like that he loves me,” Faith said with a smile.
There’s never been a doubt about that. Faith was 6 when she was diagnosed with cancer. It was Martin Luther King Day, 2012. A doctor pulled Faith’s mother, Lutisha, into the hallway at Methodist Hospital and gave her the news.
“Cancer?” Lutisha asked again.
“Your daughter has cancer,” the doctor said.
The next day at Riley Hospital for Children, doctors said the cancer was in Faith’s liver, lungs and elsewhere. It was a rare form of cancer called primitive neuroectodermal tumor, found in children more frequently than adults. Tumors had spread through her body.
“It broke me down to tears,” Antonio said. “I didn’t know how to handle it. I couldn’t take it, really.”
The first round of chemotherapy went well. Faith went into remission in September 2012.
Sixth months later, tumors were back in her lungs.
“We did chemo again,” Lutisha Wilson said. “Really aggressive. She did good for a while. After three months, she was fine. But three months later, the tumors were back again in her liver. That was April of this year.”
Faith sat behind Lutisha as she talked. She couldn’t see the tears starting to form in her mother’s eyes.
“In April,” Lutisha said, her voice cracking. “In April they put her in hospice and gave her months to live.”
It’s July. Faith is sitting on a bench outside the North Central gym. She’s smiling.
Singleton’s Indiana Elite Red 2016 travel team breaks each huddle with one word. They say it together.
One, two, three —“Faith!”
Singleton’s Indiana Elite coach, Hamilton Southeastern assistant Calvin Bembry, appreciates Singleton’s diligence. Faith’s rough days are rough days for Antonio. When she’s down and low on energy, those are the days Antonio especially tries to give her extra attention.
“It’s stressful but I try to stay in high spirits with her,” Antonio said. “She likes watching movies and playing video games. There are some days you don’t know she has cancer. She jokes around a lot. She has a pretty smile.”
Lutisha left her job at Honda after Faith’s first relapse. She found another job with Washington Township but she’s on leave from that job to care for Faith, who takes home school classes through Fox Hill Elementary when she’s up to it.
“We take it day by day,” Lutisha said. “God is good.”
In April, Faith started experimental cancer treatment at home, which Lutisha administers to her every other week.
“It’s working,” she said.
Thursday and Friday were good days. Faith felt good. Anytime she can watch her brother play basketball makes her day.
“I like watching him play basketball,” Faith said. “I think he’s a good player.”
Saturday, though, that was a great day.
Through the locally based Henley Romine BEElieve Foundation, Faith had a special day Saturday. A limousine whisked her to the zoo, to horseback riding lessons in Cicero and to her favorite restaurant, Joe’s Crab Shack.
For Antonio, every day with Faith is special. Basketball could take a backseat Saturday. He told the coaches at Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky that he’d miss the game.
“They said they respected that,” he said. “They said they’d rather see me be with her than go to the game.”
Antonio finds strength in Faith, who will turn 10 on Aug. 3. When he looks at that little girl with the bandana in the bleachers, he plays to make her proud.
“Every time I’m on that court,” he said, “it’s all for her. I play for her.”
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.