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SSS standout battles a different foe

May 20, 2013 

Smithfield Selma's Quantez Leach (5) shoots an off-balance shot off the backboard as Garner's Sammy Saunders (25) looks on during a January 2012 game.

JOHNNY JOHNSON — newsobserver.com Buy Photo

While the quest for playoff success continued last week for many high school athletes, Smithfield-Selma High’s Quantez Leach began fighting a more important battle.

Leach, a junior standout basketball and football player for the Spartans, was diagnosed Monday with stage 2B Hodgkin’s disease and began chemotherapy on Tuesday.

While far from the news Leach, his family and the SSS family wanted to hear, the diagnosis ended a long stretch of lingering flu-like symptoms that the 6-foot-4, 170-pound athlete couldn’t shake.

Stage 2B means the disease is present in two or more sets of lymph nodes. For now, Leach will undergo treatment through roughly the end of the summer.

On Tuesday, before the start of school, more than 300 SSS students, teachers and supporters gathered in the gym to offer support and to pray for Leach, his family and the doctors and others involved in his treatment. SSS boys’ basketball coach James Robinson and assistant football coach Chris Martin organized the event.

Fellow SSS student and basketball teammate Mike Williams delivered the main message and read scripture. He sounded like a speaker who already leads a congregation, not a high school student planning to start his religion studies this fall at Liberty University.

Leach led the Spartans in receiving yardage, yards per catch (16.2) and touchdowns receiving this past fall. He also started at cornerback and picked off five passes, returning one for a touchdown while registering 38 tackles.

He battled sickness through much of basketball season.

In a game I attended – Nov. 30 against Corinth Holders – he tried to play but had to return to the bench, where he rooted for his teammates while wearing a heavy winter coat and a toboggan to fight off chills. Robinson said he fully expected Leach to be a 20-25 point a game scorer.

While his football and basketball accomplishments are many, it’s his personality that has Martin and Robinson excited about his future, even with the diagnosis.

“There’s a reason why Chris Martin and I love this kid so much,” Robinson said. “He’s very quiet and polite, but he just draws people to him with the way he treats everybody else. The first thing he asked me, when I talked to him earlier this week, was if my son, Austin, who had been sick, was OK.

“His spirits are amazing this week. He’s handling it better than anybody around him.”

If the treatment goes well, Leach could get back in a Spartan uniform sometime around the middle of next school year, although Robinson wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the football field.

“That’s just the kind of kid he is,” Robinson said. “He makes you think he could do something crazy like that.”

SSS students are raising money to help Leach’s family with expenses related to the treatment. They’re selling #Pray4Tez T-shirts for $10 each. If you’d like a shirt and need help getting in touch with a student, call Robinson at 919-631-5497.

Best: 919-524-8895; cbest@newsobserver.com or Twitter: @dclaybest

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