2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 7/13/2012 8:18 AM

Benefit basketball game to help sons of ex-Batavia player

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  • Michael Newman's sons, Kobe, left, and D'metric.

    Michael Newman's sons, Kobe, left, and D'metric.
    Courtesy of the Newman family

  • Michael Newman at Navy Pier in Chicago.

    Michael Newman at Navy Pier in Chicago.
    Courtesy of the Newman family


As Michael Newman realized the end was near, he told his mother his wish.

"I don't want to just die," Noralene Graves recalled her son saying. "I want to leave a legacy."

A 1992 graduate of Batavia High School and the sixth man on the Bulldogs' 1991 Elite Eight boys basketball team, Newman left two distinct legacies when he died of cancer at age 37 last Nov. 13 -- sons D'metric, 20, and Kobe, 14.

On Saturday the Batavia basketball community will honor Newman's legacy and assist his sons, who live in Hinckley with their other grandmother, Kim Wyatt. A charity alumni basketball game drawing more than 30 former Bulldogs will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the school gym. A website for Saturday's game has been established at sites.google.com/site/michaelnewmanbenefitgame/home.

"It's a good opportunity to hopefully make some money for his kids," said Jim Roberts, Batavia's hall of fame coach who resigned April 23 after 27 seasons. "We're trying to make something positive out of a tragedy."

Roberts recalls Newman as an intense competitor who was a factor in games at just 5 feet 7 inches. Then a junior, Newman came off the bench for a 27-2 Batavia team that lost 56-46 to Marshall in the Class AA quarterfinals in Champaign. As a senior he earned all-conference honors in the old Little Seven.

More than that, Roberts remembers Newman's laugh.

"He had one of those laughs that started at the bottom of his feet and went through his entire body," the coach said.

Though former Batavia all-stater and European professional Corey Williams cannot attend Saturday's benefit -- a cousin of Newman's, Williams runs the Phoenix and Tucson Summer Pro leagues that are in full swing -- Elite Eight teammates Lamarr Justice, Aaron Blonquist, Brian Schwab, Josh Carlson and Eric Chock will suit up among a pantheon of Bulldogs past, from Chris Fagiano (Class of 1978) through Elliott Vaughn (Class of 2011).

"The biggest thing is we're obviously sad that we lost a friend and a teammate, and we're glad that we have the opportunity to honor him and remember him, get a bunch of guys together to do what he loved to do, and hopefully do some good for his family," said Chock, who in his youth would drive around town with Newman seeking pickup games.

Newman was first diagnosed with metastatic adenoid cystic carcinoma, a cancer of the mouth, when he attended a job fair focusing on dentistry. A biopsy uncovered cancerous tissue, and subsequent surgery revealed cancer had attacked his jaw. A 15-hour operation replaced bone with titanium.

The cancer also had spread to his chest. Radiation, chemotherapy and Newman's attitude helped extend his life three years past the two-year prognosis, Graves said.

"He fought and he fought and he fought," she said.

It was tragedy upon tragedy for D'metric and Kobe, since their mother -- and Newman's former partner of 13 years, Jennifer Wyatt -- died of a heart attack exactly two months before, on Sept. 13.

"You lose your mom two months prior and are still trying to deal with that (then) you lose your father while still dealing with your mother's death -- probably right now they're just able to gather what's happened because it all happened so fast," said Jeremy Newman, 32, Mike's brother.

Newman also was survived by his girlfriend, Shannon Loftus.

Led by Roberts, former Bulldogs such as Anthony Williams (Class of 1981) and Newman's youth-level coaches Thad Tousana and Karl Maves, the benefit took form.

"He always cared about everybody before himself," said Maves, co-captain with Tousana on Roberts' first Batavia team in 1985-86. "He was just one of those guys that when Coach told me it happened, it made me want to be part of what we wanted to do this weekend."

"We're really excited about it," Tousana added. "We're expecting a gym full of people. I would encourage people get to the game early because there's going to be quite a few people."

Along with his two sons, this community effort is also part of Newman's legacy.

"Every time I think about it," Graves said, "I swear it literally tears me up to see the people that have taken their time and have gone out of their way to let him know he's gone but he's not forgotten."

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