In a town destroyed by the recent California wildfires, Paradise High School basketball coach Jerry Cleek ’65 won’t let anything stand in his team’s way of playing.
Featured in a story by NBC News, players on the team discuss the challenges they have faced after the Camp Fire struck shortly after Thanksgiving. During the height of the basketball season, the Bobcats were forced to drive through flames down the mountain following an emergency evacuation that would lead to the loss of lives and homes.
After the fire, Cleek used basketball to help students stay strong. All but two of the team players lost their homes. Cleek borrowed a gym, where some team members commuted up three hours round trip just to be on the court playing basketball.
“It wasn’t as important for them as players, as it was for them as people,” Cleek said.
Overcoming adversity, the team was motivated not just to stick together, but to give it their all on the court.
“We have all gotten closer than ever, having this traumatic situation,” said Joe Lawrie, a senior guard on the team. “And we have something to fight for … fight for our season. Fight for our school. Fight together.”