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Assisted Coach

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The Oviedo High School basketball community is lifting up assistant coach Bryan Price as he battles stage 4 stomach cancer

This past July, Bryan Price was experiencing nagging stomach pain that wouldn’t go away. Both Bryan’s wife Juliet and teenage son Zach were away in Virginia, so Bryan texted a friend, Oviedo High School boys’ junior varsity basketball coach Elston Watson.

Bryan, a volunteer assistant coach for Oviedo’s J.V. team last season, asked Elston for a ride to the emergency room at Winter Park Memorial Hospital.

Elston wanted to wait with him, but Bryan insisted he would be just fine and sent his friend home. By the time he was released from the hospital, almost two weeks later, Bryan had received a dreaded diagnosis: He had stage 4 stomach cancer, and his doctor told him he had 12 to 18 months to live.

“I’ll never forget that,” says Bryan, 45. “We thought I had a bleeding ulcer. So when the doctor said I had stage 4 cancer and it was not curable, I asked him, ‘How long do I have?’ I never expected to hear 12 to 18 months.”

What has happened since that diagnosis has been unexpected, as well. The Oviedo community – particularly the OHS basketball family – has rallied around Bryan and raised thousands of dollars to help offset the cost of his cancer battle. In October, both Oviedo’s boys’ and girls’ basketball teams held events to raise money for Bryan, who has been unable to resume his full-time job as an airline pilot since his diagnosis.

When he initially heard about the boys’ basketball event, from varsity assistant coach Shawn Knaub, Bryan told him “no.” Shawn insisted, “We’re doing it anyway.”

“I didn’t want this to be about me,” Bryan says. “I’m humbled. The community has been absolutely amazing. I will never be able to say ‘thank you’ enough to all the people involved in this. Between the coaching staff and their wives and people in the neighborhood asking, ‘What can we do to help?’ It’s so impressive how the community has come together.”

Helping Bryan was a no-brainer for Kristen and Doug Denny, whose son Braden played on Oviedo’s junior varsity team as a freshman last year. Braden, now a sophomore on the varsity squad, told his parents about Bryan and what an encouraging and positive influence he was for the team.

“Even though he’s been in Oviedo for just a little over a year, the community has really rallied around him,” says Kristen, who helped coordinate the boys’ basketball fundraiser. “They want him to know that they’ve got his back, and they’re willing to do whatever they can to help his cause and contribute to his fight.”

So far that fight has included trips to several hospitals around the country and five rounds of chemotherapy. A CT scan in September revealed encouraging results: The tumor has reduced in size by one-third. In October, Bryan met with a leading medical oncologist in Washington, D.C., to explore further treatment options.

Bryan, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound Texas native, got involved in Oviedo basketball last year. He started coaching in 2005 in Virginia as a varsity assistant and then a head coach. Bryan hoped to continue coaching when he moved his family to Florida, so he found the email address for Oviedo head coach Ed Kershner and sent him a message.

“Less than five minutes after I hit the ‘Send’ button, he called me, and we talked for an hour,” Bryan says. “He invited me to one of their fall workouts a few days later, and the rest is history.”

At tryouts, Bryan noticed that the J.V. team had no assistant coach, so he volunteered to help Coach Watson. The two quickly became close friends.

“Bryan and I are battle buddies,” Elston says. “If you’re in a foxhole or in a tower, you want Bryan in that tower with you. He’s just a really good dude. I trust him completely. We have the same core values. He’s got integrity and loyalty. Even if we weren’t involved in basketball, we’d be friends.”

Bryan marveled at the response of the Oviedo basketball family during his time in the hospital.

“The coaching staff at Oviedo High School – I can’t tell you how awesome they’ve been to me, both last season and when I ended up in the hospital this summer,” Bryan says. “I was in the hospital for 12 days, and there was not a single day when at least one of the coaches wasn’t sitting in that hospital room with me. Coach Kershner always preaches about family. He truly put those words into action this summer.”

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