Murphy's battle with leukemia motivates Drivin'
By KATHLEEN O'BRIEN
Associate Sports Editor
The most important member of the Bookstore Basketball team Drivin' won't even set foot on the court. He'll face a much tougher challenge today than going up against the No. 4 ranked Franchise squad.
Sophomore Conor Murphy, the missing member of Drivin', will receive a bone marrow transplant today to combat his leukemia. While Murphy fights for his life, his Zahm Hall buddies fight in his honor to advance to the round of 64 in Bookstore Basketball.
Wes Jacobs, Gabe Ibanez, Nate DeNicola, John LeBlanc and Steve Napleton named their team Drivin' in reference to the bone marrow drive Notre Dame held last month to find a match for Murphy. And when Murphy lost his hair due to radiation and chemotherapy treatment, the five guys on Drivin' shaved their heads to keep Murphy with them on the court.
"Shaving the heads was my idea," Napleton said.
"If shaving our heads helps him in any way, then we're happy to do it," DeNicola said.
In the first round of the tourney, Drivin' also wore hospital gowns with their shorts, despite 35-degree temperatures.
It easily advanced through the first two rounds, aware that the pushover games would end when they faced a top-ranked foe at 5 p.m. today at Stepan. But the team also knows its competition is nothing compared to what their friend must defeat.
Murphy's optimism amazes his former roommates. Despite illness and hospitalization resulting from his leukemia treatment, he continues to keep high spirits.
"It's amazing how strong he is," said Jacobs, who lived with Murphy last semester, said.
The whole crew of Zahm residents keep in touch with Murphy regularly by phone and email.
He came to visit them at Notre Dame last week between bouts with radiation and chemotherapy.
Murphy refused to admit the strain placed on him by leukemia.
"Radiation was weak," Murphy wrote in an E-mail to his friends over the weekend.
Although none of Murphy's family members proved eligible to donate their bone marrow to him, an anonymous match was found.
Murphy has been receiving chemotherapy since Sunday in preparation for today's transplant.
Niether Murphy nor the donor will know who the other is until a year after the transplant. This is done to protect the latter against feeling guilty if the transplant fails.
"They're introduced a year later," Ibanez said. "He [Murphy] was in good spirits lately."
If all goes well, recovery from the bone marrow transplant takes about eight weeks. After that, weekly testing will continue to monitor Murphy's progress on the road to recovery. Murphy plans to return to school in the fall after his recovery is complete.
So while the members of Drivin' match up against Franchise this afternoon, their minds may stray to a hospital room where their friend, roommate and 1999 Bookstore teammate lies undergoing the biggest struggle of his life.
"He knows we're thinking about him," Jacobs said.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, April 18, 2000