SAN BERNARDINO -- Taylor Statham never liked taking a charge, something his father Derek often teased him about. However, he did so one day while playing at Westwind Prep in Phoenix.
Taking a knee to the groin was painful, but it ended up saving his life. Just 18 years old at the time, Statham was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He underwent surgery and chemotherapy.
Two years later, he's healthy and back on the basketball court, this time playing for NCAA Division II Cal State San Bernardino. The experience taught him not to take anything for granted.
"The doctor didn't have a great bedside manner. He was pretty blunt. He came right out and told me I had cancer," Statham said. "I'm thinking, `What do you mean cancer? I'm 18 years old.
Statham, now 20, graduated from Golden Valley High School in Santa Clarita. He transferred from Hart High during his sophomore year, so he was not eligible to play as a junior. He also had a major growth spurt, so he and his parents thought prep school was a better option than a four-year or community college.
The player that rammed into him during that November scrimmage was his roommate at the time - Dushon Carter.
Statham took a few minutes to collect himself, but returned to practice drills right away, so no one thought anything of it.
When the pain failed to subside a month or so later, his parents finally persuaded him to see a doctor. He was sent to the hospital immediately for further tests.
The fact Statham didn't miss a practice or complain about being injured is a testament to his toughness.
"He has a pain threshold that I certainly don't have," said Scott Lovely, then the coach at Westwind Prep. "We had no idea anything was wrong because he never said anything. He is probably the toughest kid I have ever coached."
Statham's mother Marty recalls hearing the news every parent dreads.
"It was just disbelief. His father and I are both healthy. Our parents are healthy," she said. "As a parent, you'd rather go through it than see your child have to suffer."
Statham was initially told he wouldn't need chemotherapy, but tests shortly after the surgery proved otherwise. Not only did he need one round, he needed a second.
Being hooked up to an IV six hours a day, five days a week took its toll physically and psychologically, but Statham took that in stride too.
"Any time I wanted to feel sorry for myself, I just looked around at the children there going through it. That was really the hardest part," he said.
Yet Statham practiced when he could and played when he could.
He wasn't about to have his dream of playing college basketball derailed. He drew a lot of interest, some from Division I schools including Pepperdine and Fresno State, but that interest waned after he became ill.
Statham, who is majoring in business, contacted a handful of schools and asked about open tryouts. California Baptist and Cal State San Bernardino were among those.
He chose Cal Baptist because the Riverside school offered a full scholarship, something none of the others could. The treatment for cancer was costly, so Statham didn't want his parents to foot the bill for school as well.
He played little during the 2011-12 season, averaging 4.2 minutes and playing in just 14 of 26 games for the Lancers.
Cal State coach Jeff Oliver was glad to welcome the 6-foot-6 guard to the fold. Statham is the only sophomore on the active roster.
"I liked him when I saw him the first time," Oliver said. "He does some things well but also has some limitations. If he gets in the weight room and works on getting stronger, he's going to be an important player for us moving forward."
Statham's playing time with the Coyotes (18-7), who are ranked sixth in the West Region, has been sporadic as well. He has played as few as three minutes in some games and as many as 25. Statham started seven of the first eight games, four of those starts coming when senior forward Kwame Alexander was ineligible.
Perhaps his biggest moment came in an 84-82 overtime victory against Cal State Monterey Bay at Coussoulis Arena on Feb. 22. He scored 10 points and made a 3-pointer that tied the score at 82 with a minute left in overtime. He also had a basket with 5:49 left in regulation that cut Cal State's deficit to 63-56 and helped the Coyotes rally from 20 points down.
Unlike at Cal Baptist, he feels his time is coming.
"We have a lot of really good players and I just try and contribute when I am in there," he said. "This is a different situation. At Cal Baptist I really thought I deserved more time."
Statham understands fate has a way of intervening. The cancer he had was a malignant, aggressive form, and doctors say it probably wouldn't have been caught had he not had a reason to see a doctor when he did.
"I was very lucky they caught it when they did," he said. "It goes to show everything does happen for a reason."
His parents and younger brother Hunter, a sophomore at Golden Valley, are thankful the ordeal is behind them."
"It might not be the only charge he'll ever take," Derek Stratham said. "But it will definitely be the most important."