Oklahoma Man Headed To Final Four After Beating Cancer

Wednesday, March 29th 2017, 10:41 pm
By: Brian Mueller

An unlikely quartet of teams will battle it out for a national championship in Phoenix this weekend.

That's where Guthrie resident J. Dee Marinko will be, and he knows a thing or two about long shots.

Marinko was a football star at Newcastle High School and played in college at Panhandle State. He'd always been an athlete. And then cancer hit in 2009.

"When I got diagnosed with cancer, I was in shock, I thought everything was over," said Marinko. "I went to a specialist, she said 75% chance it can kill you if you try to keep your foot. Cut it off, 75% chance it never comes back, you have a normal, happy life." 

The decision was surprisingly easy.

"I saw my son crawling around on the floor, and I said I can't be selfish for him, I have to be there for him. He's the reason that I'm alive. I made a phone call that Thursday, and I said let's cut if off. And she said well we don't do it on Friday, but we'll do it Monday, and I said all right, let's go."

Just a year after his procedure, he tried out and made the U.S. sitting volleyball team, and that produced a trip to the Paralympic Games in Rio last summer.

Seven months ago the Paralympics. Now the Final Four.

J. Dee isn't going just to watch the games in Phoenix. He'll be playing in a Coach's vs. Cancer basketball game made up entirely of cancer survivors. His coach will be Wisconsin legend Bo Ryan.

"Total fan mode for me, I was like, wow, are you kidding me, this guy, is a great coach, I get to be on the court with him, coaching my team," said Marinko.

You can watch highlights of J. Dee's game in between the Final Four games Saturday on CBS.