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New Mexico State, UMKC team up for great cause during Coaches vs. Cancer’s signature week

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NCAA Basketball: Creighton at Georgetown Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Cancer invades everyone’s life. Everyone’s life.

Former UMKC senior associate athletic director Brian Morris is no exception. Morris’s 11 year-old daughter Lauren was diagnosed with osteosarcoma last Fall, a type of bone cancer that the Mayo Clinic classifies as very rare.

To help raise awareness for Lauren, her school made #TeamLauren t-shirts that Kareem Richardson and UMKC wore during its two games last week. When New Mexico State came to Kansas City over the weekend, Aggies’ coach Chris Jans wanted a spot on #TeamLauren. He and Morris became friends while both worked at Wichita State, and on Saturday night at Municipal Auditorium, coaches paced both sidelines in gear to support a young girl and a great cause.

It came as programs around the country took part in a big week for college basketball.

“Obviously with it being Coaches vs. Cancer week, it seemed the appropriate time to raise awareness,” Jans said. “It became more personal this year because of that relationship.”

From the Big Sky to the Big East and everywhere in between, coaching staffs wore sneakers during games as a part of Suits and Sneakers Week. It’s one of the signature events for Coaches v. Cancer, a collaboration between the National Association of Basketball Coaches and American Cancer Society launched by former Missouri coach Norm Stewart in 1993.

Since that time, it has raised over $100 million for the American Cancer Society through Suits and Sneakers week, the 3-Point Challenge, and other programs. To raise funds for the American Cancer Society, shoes that coaches wore last week were auctioned on eBay.

Here are several coaches on what the week meant to them:

IUPUI’s Jason Gardner:

“As coaches, we’ve been provided a platform and an ability to give back,” Gardner said. “I think it’s important that we use this opportunity to raise awareness for those fighting for their lives against cancer. It’s a simple gesture for us as coaches, but it has a huge impact on those in need.

UNC Wilmington’s C.B. McGrath:

“We’re very familiar with the Suits and Sneakers program and are honored to be invited to be part of it,” said McGrath. “It’s for a great cause. So many people are affected on a daily basis by this terrible disease and this is just a small way that we can bring awareness and help raise money to fight cancer.”

Montana’s Travis DeCuire:

“Fighting cancer is important to our community, every community because it takes people away from us way too early,” he continued. “Any opportunity to play a role in the fight, I’m all in for it. If awareness through the game of basketball is a productive way to fight the fight, I don’t know that there’s a better way other than if you can write a check for $1 million, and I don’t have that. I think awareness is huge in any cause, especially this one.”

And of course, some images from the week. Fashion went by the wayside for the right reasons.

To get involved, visit this section of the American Cancer Society’s website.