Proctor coaching through cancer

Published 6:34 pm Sunday, December 3, 2017

PINETOWN — There are always hurdles a basketball team has to overcome going into a season opener. Northside, which began its campaign at Washington last Wednesday, wondered a bit about its inside presence against a bigger Pam Pack squad.

Mike Proctor had bigger concerns — not about the team, but about his health. The Panthers’ head coach has been battling brain cancer. On Tuesday, the eve of the team’s first game, Proctor was at Duke getting an infection in his head checked out.

“The doctor said the infection is gone. I’ve still got a hole in my head they’ve still got to close up,” he said. “Then, after that, they’re probably going to put me back on chemo, which was doing a really good job, but I can’t go on chemo with an open wound.”

Cancer hasn’t slowed down Proctor. As a result, the Panthers haven’t slowed down, either. They blew Washington out of the water in their season opener, 81-47, using a fast-paced offense. They thrived off of the connection between guards Rashod Smith and Johnathan Clark. Braeden Cooper added some sharpshooting and Bryson Radcliffe held down the post.

That was the blueprint for a stretch that saw Northside begin the season 3-0. The Panthers lambasted the Pam Pack again Friday in their home opener.

Proctor knew he could handle his bench-boss duties. He’s battled the cancer to continue living just about every other aspect of his life. It’s one of his passions he’s been able to keep up with.

“I haven’t missed any days of teaching, coaching or practicing,” he said. “I’m not worried, health-wise, about taking any energy away from me. I feel good and strong. I just hope it’s taking care of the cancer.

“I feel good and healthy. My blood count has been good. Personally, I’m good.”

When it comes to energy, it doesn’t hurt that the Panther fans return any energy he expends. Even though they were on the road for their first game, Proctor and Northside had a loyal band of fans behind them — literally — as they took care of the Pam Pack.

It didn’t take long for Proctor to hear the fans come to life. Washington’s gym exploded when Smith and Clark connected on a highlight-reel alley-oop in the fourth quarter of the season opener.

Northside’s fans then turned out in droves for Friday’s home opener. Proctor’s halftime speech was delayed by having his medicine checked on, but the energy at home was something that willed him and the Panthers to another lopsided win over Washington.