Hoops star plays for friend he lost to cancer nearly a decade ago

STAUNTON, Va. - He did it on March 4, standing at the foul line in overtime where he hit three big free throws to help his team rally for a win.

He did it five days later when he watched the clock hit all zeros in Richmond, Virginia and knew Robert E. Lee High School was officially the state champion.

He did it a week ago when the boys basketball team photo was added to the wall at Paul Hatcher Gym.

And he did it again Wednesday night when he and his teammates received their state championship rings at a ceremony at the high school.

Every step of the way when Jayden Williams, the starting point guard for Lee High in Staunton, Virginia this year, celebrated the successes of his basketball team, he celebrated for two.

On March 15, 2008, almost exactly nine years before Lee won the state title this year, Williams lost his best friend. Leukemia took the life of 7-year-old Laketon Matthews, who had been battling the disease for almost four years.

"When he passed away it was devastating," Williams said Wednesday night in the Paul Hatcher Gym after the ring ceremony. "When I played my games I would always think of him. I still think of him every day. Winning this really means a lot, for me and for him."

Williams turned to his diary for comfort the day Matthews died.

The 8-year-old Williams wrote, complete with the spelling you would expect from an 8-year-old, "Laketon died becas he had cansir. He was the first person i new and evry time my mom wanted me i was always at Laketon's house eating shreded cheshe and watching power rangers. His favrit drink was hot choclat and i ate it whith Him."

state championship team, celebrating Wednesday night with the rest of the Leemen. Matthews came from a basketball family, including his older brother, Shai, who played for Lee High before graduating in 2013.

But if he couldn't be there in body, he certainly was with the team in spirit throughout the championship run. Williams firmly believes that.

Before the state championship game in March, standing in the Virginia Commonwealth University Siegel Center in downtown Richmond, Williams said a prayer for Laketon.

Then Williams went out and scored 17 points as he and the rest of the Leemen won a title, beating Amelia County for the school's first championship since 2005.

And throughout, from the start of the season until Wednesday night's ring ceremony, Laketon Matthews was on Williams' mind.

"We really did it for him," he said. 

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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