Local basketball player's memory lives on in 3-on-3 tournament

Opinion Jun 20, 2017 by Brian Totzke Waterloo Chronicle

This Sunday past was Father's Day and a lot of loved ones were missing from the dinner table.

And from church. And from the cottage. And from the backyard patio.

They were missing from the tee blocks. From the baseball game. From the game of cards.

Many of those missing were indeed, fathers, or even fathers of fathers. And they were remembered sadly but fondly by the raising of a glass or the bowing of a head. By the tipping of a cap or the telling of a story.

But not all of those missing were fathers. Some were daughters and some were sons.

In the spring of 2014, 13-year-old Jay Kumar, son of Himanshu and Madhavi Kumar, wanted nothing more than to play basketball, and why not? He loved the sport. He was good at it. And he made a lot of friends playing it.

But Jay wasn't feeling quite himself that year. He often felt dizzy and tired and headaches were common.

How he felt didn't add up for a boy so young and healthy and normally full of energy. He was viewed by his relatives as the "glue" of the family, forever initiating and maintaining connections among everyone — from the youngest cousin to the eldest grandparent.

Sharad Singh, Jay's uncle, described his enthusiastic young nephew as “a perfect son, a precious grandson, an awesome brother, an amazing nephew, an incredible cousin, a loyal friend and a beautiful person.”

I never met Jay Kumar but I'm certain he was exactly as his uncle described.

Someone who did know him well was his Kitchener Vipers basketball coach, Brad Matsugu, who remembers him as "a fun-loving kid who made everyone around him smile."

“Jay was so well-behaved. He knew how to have fun and he knew when it was time to listen. It was great to have him on our team.”

Marcus Umana, Jay's classmate at Laurentian Public School and Vipers teammate, said, “If I could have anyone as a brother, it would be him.”

When April turned to May, Jay and his family were given a diagnosis and it wasn't good. He was suffering from an extremely rare condition known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a disease affecting the brain stem that usually occurs in children between ages five and 10.

Regardless of how he was feeling, Jay wanted to be with his teammates when they travelled to Kingston for their final tournament of the season, the Ontario Cup. And so, despite his symptoms, he did. After all, it was basketball and these were his friends. It's what 13-year-old boys do.

Nine days after his diagnosis, Jay Kumar passed away.

Not long ago, Matsugu became a first-time father himself when his son Ethan came into his life.

"As a coach, losing a player like Jay affected me in a profound way. But now, having a son of my own, it impacts me on a completely different level. Losing your child is unfathomable to me."

After Jay died, those close to him mourned his loss by paying tribute to him in various ways. There was a tree-planting ceremony at school and the Laurentian Lancers basketball team played a game in his honour. Photographs and notes of remembrance decorated his locker.

And Matsugu, ever the caring coach, organized an 3-on-3 charity basketball tournament in tribute to his former player.

"The first year, we started with 40 teams and pulled it together in just over a month's time — the true meaning of community," said Matsugu.

"This year, we had a record 70 teams and 250 participants coming from all across Ontario. It was awesome."

On Saturday, I felt honoured to volunteer as an official at this year's 3-on-3 Kumar Classic held at Conestoga College. Every court was filled with boys and girls playing a sport that's fast-paced, exciting and will be part of the next Olympic Games.

It was controlled chaos.

Music was blaring. Balls were flying. Whistles were blowing. And intensely competitive basketball was happening in every corner of the complex.

Jay Kumar would have been in his element.

Jay's father brought me a water bottle while refereeing and then personally escorted me upstairs for a lunch prepared by his wife.

I thanked him, but as a father myself, couldn't find the right words to say.

His son would still be missing on Sunday, but on this day, his presence was everywhere.

 

 

Brian Totzke is a freelance writer and is on Twitter: @kitwatguy

Local basketball player's memory lives on in 3-on-3 tournament

Opinion Jun 20, 2017 by Brian Totzke Waterloo Chronicle

This Sunday past was Father's Day and a lot of loved ones were missing from the dinner table.

And from church. And from the cottage. And from the backyard patio.

They were missing from the tee blocks. From the baseball game. From the game of cards.

Many of those missing were indeed, fathers, or even fathers of fathers. And they were remembered sadly but fondly by the raising of a glass or the bowing of a head. By the tipping of a cap or the telling of a story.

But not all of those missing were fathers. Some were daughters and some were sons.

In the spring of 2014, 13-year-old Jay Kumar, son of Himanshu and Madhavi Kumar, wanted nothing more than to play basketball, and why not? He loved the sport. He was good at it. And he made a lot of friends playing it.

But Jay wasn't feeling quite himself that year. He often felt dizzy and tired and headaches were common.

How he felt didn't add up for a boy so young and healthy and normally full of energy. He was viewed by his relatives as the "glue" of the family, forever initiating and maintaining connections among everyone — from the youngest cousin to the eldest grandparent.

Sharad Singh, Jay's uncle, described his enthusiastic young nephew as “a perfect son, a precious grandson, an awesome brother, an amazing nephew, an incredible cousin, a loyal friend and a beautiful person.”

I never met Jay Kumar but I'm certain he was exactly as his uncle described.

Someone who did know him well was his Kitchener Vipers basketball coach, Brad Matsugu, who remembers him as "a fun-loving kid who made everyone around him smile."

“Jay was so well-behaved. He knew how to have fun and he knew when it was time to listen. It was great to have him on our team.”

Marcus Umana, Jay's classmate at Laurentian Public School and Vipers teammate, said, “If I could have anyone as a brother, it would be him.”

When April turned to May, Jay and his family were given a diagnosis and it wasn't good. He was suffering from an extremely rare condition known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a disease affecting the brain stem that usually occurs in children between ages five and 10.

Regardless of how he was feeling, Jay wanted to be with his teammates when they travelled to Kingston for their final tournament of the season, the Ontario Cup. And so, despite his symptoms, he did. After all, it was basketball and these were his friends. It's what 13-year-old boys do.

Nine days after his diagnosis, Jay Kumar passed away.

Not long ago, Matsugu became a first-time father himself when his son Ethan came into his life.

"As a coach, losing a player like Jay affected me in a profound way. But now, having a son of my own, it impacts me on a completely different level. Losing your child is unfathomable to me."

After Jay died, those close to him mourned his loss by paying tribute to him in various ways. There was a tree-planting ceremony at school and the Laurentian Lancers basketball team played a game in his honour. Photographs and notes of remembrance decorated his locker.

And Matsugu, ever the caring coach, organized an 3-on-3 charity basketball tournament in tribute to his former player.

"The first year, we started with 40 teams and pulled it together in just over a month's time — the true meaning of community," said Matsugu.

"This year, we had a record 70 teams and 250 participants coming from all across Ontario. It was awesome."

On Saturday, I felt honoured to volunteer as an official at this year's 3-on-3 Kumar Classic held at Conestoga College. Every court was filled with boys and girls playing a sport that's fast-paced, exciting and will be part of the next Olympic Games.

It was controlled chaos.

Music was blaring. Balls were flying. Whistles were blowing. And intensely competitive basketball was happening in every corner of the complex.

Jay Kumar would have been in his element.

Jay's father brought me a water bottle while refereeing and then personally escorted me upstairs for a lunch prepared by his wife.

I thanked him, but as a father myself, couldn't find the right words to say.

His son would still be missing on Sunday, but on this day, his presence was everywhere.

 

 

Brian Totzke is a freelance writer and is on Twitter: @kitwatguy

Local basketball player's memory lives on in 3-on-3 tournament

Opinion Jun 20, 2017 by Brian Totzke Waterloo Chronicle

This Sunday past was Father's Day and a lot of loved ones were missing from the dinner table.

And from church. And from the cottage. And from the backyard patio.

They were missing from the tee blocks. From the baseball game. From the game of cards.

Many of those missing were indeed, fathers, or even fathers of fathers. And they were remembered sadly but fondly by the raising of a glass or the bowing of a head. By the tipping of a cap or the telling of a story.

But not all of those missing were fathers. Some were daughters and some were sons.

In the spring of 2014, 13-year-old Jay Kumar, son of Himanshu and Madhavi Kumar, wanted nothing more than to play basketball, and why not? He loved the sport. He was good at it. And he made a lot of friends playing it.

But Jay wasn't feeling quite himself that year. He often felt dizzy and tired and headaches were common.

How he felt didn't add up for a boy so young and healthy and normally full of energy. He was viewed by his relatives as the "glue" of the family, forever initiating and maintaining connections among everyone — from the youngest cousin to the eldest grandparent.

Sharad Singh, Jay's uncle, described his enthusiastic young nephew as “a perfect son, a precious grandson, an awesome brother, an amazing nephew, an incredible cousin, a loyal friend and a beautiful person.”

I never met Jay Kumar but I'm certain he was exactly as his uncle described.

Someone who did know him well was his Kitchener Vipers basketball coach, Brad Matsugu, who remembers him as "a fun-loving kid who made everyone around him smile."

“Jay was so well-behaved. He knew how to have fun and he knew when it was time to listen. It was great to have him on our team.”

Marcus Umana, Jay's classmate at Laurentian Public School and Vipers teammate, said, “If I could have anyone as a brother, it would be him.”

When April turned to May, Jay and his family were given a diagnosis and it wasn't good. He was suffering from an extremely rare condition known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a disease affecting the brain stem that usually occurs in children between ages five and 10.

Regardless of how he was feeling, Jay wanted to be with his teammates when they travelled to Kingston for their final tournament of the season, the Ontario Cup. And so, despite his symptoms, he did. After all, it was basketball and these were his friends. It's what 13-year-old boys do.

Nine days after his diagnosis, Jay Kumar passed away.

Not long ago, Matsugu became a first-time father himself when his son Ethan came into his life.

"As a coach, losing a player like Jay affected me in a profound way. But now, having a son of my own, it impacts me on a completely different level. Losing your child is unfathomable to me."

After Jay died, those close to him mourned his loss by paying tribute to him in various ways. There was a tree-planting ceremony at school and the Laurentian Lancers basketball team played a game in his honour. Photographs and notes of remembrance decorated his locker.

And Matsugu, ever the caring coach, organized an 3-on-3 charity basketball tournament in tribute to his former player.

"The first year, we started with 40 teams and pulled it together in just over a month's time — the true meaning of community," said Matsugu.

"This year, we had a record 70 teams and 250 participants coming from all across Ontario. It was awesome."

On Saturday, I felt honoured to volunteer as an official at this year's 3-on-3 Kumar Classic held at Conestoga College. Every court was filled with boys and girls playing a sport that's fast-paced, exciting and will be part of the next Olympic Games.

It was controlled chaos.

Music was blaring. Balls were flying. Whistles were blowing. And intensely competitive basketball was happening in every corner of the complex.

Jay Kumar would have been in his element.

Jay's father brought me a water bottle while refereeing and then personally escorted me upstairs for a lunch prepared by his wife.

I thanked him, but as a father myself, couldn't find the right words to say.

His son would still be missing on Sunday, but on this day, his presence was everywhere.

 

 

Brian Totzke is a freelance writer and is on Twitter: @kitwatguy