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VT Basketball names 7-year-old cancer patient as honorary starter

BLACKSBURG, Virg. (CBS, KYMA/KECY) - Virginia Tech Basketball names seven-year-old cancer patient as an honorary starter.

“Let me assure you this: When he can make it, he’s gonna’ have pretty good seat in the Cassell and he’s gonna be treated like royalty.”

That was head coach Mike Young after Virginia Tech’s home win over Syracuse in late January, where the only thing missing was Chase O’Brien, a seven-year-old from Roanoke who’s battled pediatric brain cancer for the last two years.

“He underwent emergency surgery to resect as much of it as they could,” said his mother, Jessica. “Unfortunately, it started to grow back in May of last year. So he’s been going through chemotherapy treatments ever since.”

A promise brought to fruition

Chase painted Young’s sneakers for the Hokies’ annual Shoes 4 Hope game, but he was in the hospital when Tech’s head coach showed them off against the Orange.

Young’s promise to Chase and his parents, Eric and Jessica, was brought to fruition Saturday night against Pitt.

“Getting here feels good,” said Jessica O’Brien, “because we don’t have anything going on right now.”

Chase got the full Hokie treatment, getting to meet his favorite player, Justyn Mutts, and being introduced during pregame warmups as an honorary starter for Mike Young’s team.

“I told him you got to do something when you go out there. I need to see your handshake,” said Tech forward Grant Basile. “He said he’s gonna’ flex. He showed us all his muscles.”

“You really can’t articulate words for that kind of stuff,” added Hokies forward Mylyjael Poteat. “That’s awesome. Like the experience behind that, what he’s going through, the ability just for him to be there, I think that really fueled us.”

Cherishing the moments

“To us, I mean, honestly, it’s above and beyond what we ever expected,” said Eric O’Brien, Chase’s father. “It is truly great to not just spend this time as a family, but also to do something fun, you know, take our mind off of what’s going on the last year and a half with our son. So anytime that we’re able to do something like this, we cherish it and appreciate everything everybody’s done, as far as reaching out and their support as well.”

This season for Tech hasn’t gone the way most people in Blacksburg expected, but Saturday’s win over the Panthers put the cherry on top of a night where a young man named Chase was king of the Cassell.

“Toughest guy in the building, man,” said Young. “Toughest guy in the building. [Seven] years old and dealing with that. And his mom, Jessica, and his dad, Eric, to have them here and to be able to recognize him and bring him in the locker room after a big win and present him the game ball, call his number and his name to the starting lineups—pretty awesome day.”

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Dillon Fuhrman

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