Teen Cancer Patient Back on the Court Thanks to Teammates' Twitter Campaign

Beth Greenfield, Shine Staff

A star high school basketball player's battle with cancer became a fight with his school this week, albeit briefly, when Tim Monette, 17, says the principal barred him from playing the game he loves. That’s because his health issues have forced him to trade class time at New York's Northville High School for at-home tutoring, which, he says he was told, makes him ineligible to play sports because of school policy.

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"I love basketball. It motivates me and keeps my mind off of everything and keeps me positive!" Monette tells Yahoo Shine through Twitter. His mom Shawna Monette, speaking to the Albany Times Union, adds, "When they said he couldn't play, my heart just dropped. His basketball and his sports are everything to him."

But his ever-supportive teammates had his back—just as they did in late December, when Monette had jubilantly returned to the game after getting a thumbs up from his doctor, just a month after his diagnosis with Burkitt lymphoma. His fellow players shaved their heads in solidarity, and Monette received a standing ovation from the crowd when he stepped onto the court.

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On Thursday, his teammates organized a sit-in against the policy in their high school gym, drawing a crowd of students. Then they took to social media, kicking off a fast-spreading Twitter and Instagram campaign in support of player No. 23 with the hashtag #LetTimPlay, and drumming up further backers on the sports social network Fancred. "It makes me really happy that everyone is supporting me and cares about my happiness," he tells Shine.

And, lo and behold, it appears to have worked.

Within hours, the school said that Monette would be allowed to continue playing after all—but noted that the entire kerfuffle had just been a misunderstanding.

Superintendent Debra Lynker released a statement to Yahoo Shine, saying:

“High School principal Mariah Kramer questioned Tim Monette’s eligibility to play basketball, given that the district policy requires a student be in attendance on the day of the game to be eligible to play. She responded fairly and properly by letting him play last night and telling his parents that she needed to investigate this further in the morning.  Never did she say definitively that he could not play. After consulting me and the school’s attorney first thing this morning it was decided that the home tutoring he is receiving constitutes the requisite attendance and as long as he has a doctor’s clearance for each game, he may be eligible to play. It is unfortunate that misinformation circulated through social media before it could even be resolved properly.”

The student contends on Twitter (where his user name of @NextBGriffin_23 appears to be a nod to NBA player Blake Griffin) that the school’s statement is not quite accurate:

Either way, he’s back, which, according to the team’s coach John Karbowski, goes along with the young man's tenacious spirit. "Here's a kid who is going through so much, and he's diving all over the ball for loose balls. I mean, he was all over the place,” Karbowski told WNYT in December after Monette’s first night back in the game. "That's the [kind] of kid he is."

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