Former Wichita State player Chadrack Lufile was attempting to sell his Final Four ring from the 2012-13 season, but an outpouring of support from Shocker fans might allow him to keep it.
Lufile has returned to Burlington, Ontario, to help care for his mother, Leonnie, who was diagnosed with colon and liver cancer in January. While Canada's health care system covers the cost of hospital care, it leaves many cancer patients without funding for prescription drugs.
Costs have piled up, and Lufile has started working a 9-to-5 factory job to help out, but he says he still needs help. That's why he posted on Facebook about selling his ring.
"There was a lot of sweat and tears that went into getting that ring, and it's something I would cherish and pass down to my kids," Lufile told The Eagle by phone. "But I would rather have my son see his grandmother more."
The reaction from WSU fans to Lufile's picture of the ring has been universal: Keep the ring, we'll help out another way.
There was a GoFundMe page set up for Lufile's mother more than a month ago, but it had received few donations in recent weeks. After Lufile's Facebook post Thursday, 36 donations totaling more than $2,200 have been sent in the last 24 hours.
Because Lufile doesn't have a banking account in America, WSU fan and Wichita native Connie Severe, who has remained close to Lufile since his graduation in 2014, has headed up the account. She transfers the money to Lufile through PayPal, and she has been ecstatic to see donations pick up.
"It's about time because this is so well-deserved," Severe said. "He gave people so much joy when he was here playing with his little antics and his singing and dancing. It's so awesome to see people give back because CJ has such a heart for others. Family is everything to him."
Lufile said his mother is the one who introduced basketball to him at an early age. The family lived in subsidized housing, so shooting hoops on a basketball goal wasn't realistic. Instead, Lufile's mother took a marker and drew a basketball rim on the wall and told him to aim at that for practice.
"I tried to make a rim out of a coat hanger one time and nail it down, but the walls were cement so it didn't work," Lufile said. "It was so weird, but I did it and it actually helped me. She kept telling me to keep practicing and work on my form, and it really did help me."
After graduating from WSU in 2014, Lufile went on to play a season in the NBA Developmental League, but a knee injury ended his season. Since then, Lufile has played in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chile and Canada.
At age 27, Lufile still wants to pursue a professional basketball career and is trying to stay in shape for this summer while juggling the factory job. But at the moment, basketball isn't his top priority — taking care of his mom is.
Lufile uses whatever money he makes to help out with bills and buy groceries to help support his mother's vegan diet. He even cooks for her as much as possible, but the stresses are building.
"I never know it was going to be like this," Lufile said. "I'm kind of in a hole right now, so it's like, 'What do I do?' She's not able to work anymore, so the money isn't there. It's been a nightmare, to be honest with you."
It's been crushing for him to see his mother go through chemotherapy, as her strength has been sapped and her hair has fallen out. He doesn't like asking too many questions about his mother's health; rather, he chooses to remain as optimistic as he can.
He draws strength from NBA players DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love, who have openly discussed their own battles with depression. Lufile feels as though he is going through his own struggle.
"But at the end of the day, those guys are millionaires and I'm not," Lufile said. "I feel exactly the same way they do, but it's like 10 times worse."
Lufile called the outpouring support from Shocker fans "a blessing."
The money will certainly help, and Lufile was relieved to find out he should be able to keep his Final Four ring. As of Friday morning, the GoFundMe page had raised a little over a quarter of the $15,000 goal.
"It's been really heartwarming to see the support and love from the fans," Lufile said. "It means the world to me. I'm just asking for support at the end of the day. Even if you don't have the money, just pray for her and keep my family in your prayers."