When I called Austin Lane on Tuesday, his mom answered the phone.
Austin was napping.
She said it had been a tough night.
Austin napping was not easy to imagine. Austin stands about 6-feet, 4-inches tall and is rock solid with big shoulders and bigger tattoos. Strapping guys like Austin don’t nap.
Here’s what I know about Austin Lane: He has a feathery touch on his jumper, can run the floor as well as anyone and he often took pity on me when I guarded him by drifting to the perimeter. I appreciated that, because he could throw me around like a rag doll if he wanted.
That’s how it is in world of noon-ball basketball at the Glens Falls YMCA. When you ask about someone, you get a basketball scouting report. When it comes to our personal lives, we don’t know much else about each other.
Before this past week, I knew Austin was a bartender at O’Toole’s where he served me a beer and some chicken wings a couple times, but that was about it.
The last time I saw Austin, he was just returning to the court. He said he was out of shape and looked forward to playing.
A week or so later, someone told me he had a seizure, and when he went for tests, they found brain cancer.
They said Austin was 29.
Over the next few weeks, we learned more about Austin.
We heard Austin had brain surgery, but they only got 80 percent of the cancer.
We heard he was having radiation and chemotherapy treatments and he wouldn’t be able to work for awhile.
We also heard he is married, and his wife Samantha is due to give birth next month.
That sticks with you.
We heard he was a Glens Falls kid, and someone said he played football with Jimmer Fredette in high school.
Another person said he was doing well and might even try to play some ball soon.
I don’t think any of us were surprised.
Someone brought in a card for us to sign.
Then there was a basketball to autograph and a plastic jar for us to help Austin get through the treatments and take care of that new family. One of the guys kept lobbying that the jar didn’t have enough in it, and we all had to write a check.
Over at O’Toole’s, they are raising money for Austin, too. They are calling him, “One of our own beloved employees” and asking patrons for donations. They are holding a benefit for him from noon to closing on Saturday, Jan. 27.
One of the guys at noon-ball, Tommy Albrecht, organized a basketball tourney for that same Saturday at the YMCA to raise money for Austin and his family.
But here’s the thing. Tommy knew about as much as I did — very little — about Austin. It didn’t matter. Tommy had 500 letters sent out to clients of his construction business asking for donations and sponsorships for the basketball tourney. He was looking for $1,000 to display a 3-foot by 6-foot banner of your business or $500 for a 3-foot by 3-foot banner.
Tommy was out to make a difference for someone who regularly blocked his shot.
That’s the amazing thing about this community and the people who live here. There are a lot of people like Tommy Albrecht trying to help people who’ve gotten a bad break like Austin Lane.
“I have the wherewithal and the connections to the people to do something like this,” Tommy said. “He is not going to be able to work. I just wanted to help.”
So when I came onto the court the other day, the guys were shoving the information into my hand for the guy at the newspaper to promote the basketball tourney, to do something to help Austin.
They were talking about the basketball tourney and the format. And finally someone asked if we were going to play.
At that moment, there were more important things to worry about.