Josh Grant had just finished playing the game of his life Sunday afternoon - one that had sent his University of Utah team on to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament - but his joy was short-lived following a thrilling double-overtime victory over Michigan State in Tucson.
After a brief celebration with teammates and an interview with CBS at mid-court, he walked directly to his father, Paul, in the stands, to learn of the condition of his sister-in-law, Deanne."It's real serious," his father told him. "Things have gotten worse. Talk to the (team) doctors."
In fact, Deanne Grant - the wife of Josh's older brother Greg, the mother of one child, and only 26 years old - is dying of cancer, which she has been fighting since last fall. On Saturday morning, she collapsed at a hotel in Tucson and was hospitalized.
"She's going downhill fast," said Paul.
After getting the word from his father, Grant went to the locker room to be with his teammates briefly, then returned to the stands to be with his family. Holding his niece Chelsea in his lap, he discussed the situation with team doctor Burtis Evans and his father (Greg, a former Utah State basketball star and now an air traffic controller, was in Salt Lake City).
Doctors and family members decided that instead of driving Deanne home as scheduled, they would place her on the team's chartered flight Sunday night for the return trip home, so she could be under the care of a doctor (Evans).
"The kids are very close," said Paul. "Deanne has been part of the group. They've known this was coming, and it's been difficult."
At her request, Deanne and the Grants drove to the Western Athletic Conference tournament in Laramie last week, then to Texas for a day at the beach, and then to Tucson for this week's NCAA tournament. She attended Friday's Utah-South Alabama game and all went well. ("She cheered hard," said Paul. "She felt like it was good for her.") But on Saturday morning she collapsed. One of her lungs had filled with blood.
"Everyone told her not to come on this trip," said Paul, "but she said she wasn't going to let cancer run her life. That's what kind of gal she is."
Before Sunday's game, the Utes inscribed Deanne's initials on the back of their shoes. Grant, with DEANNE written on the heels of both shoes, dedicated his game to her. And what a game it was.
In what was the best performance of his career, Grant totaled 29 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals against Michigan State, thus completing an amazing weekend. On Friday, he produced 22 points and 11 rebounds in a win over South Alabama.
"I thought about (Deanne) at halftime and before the game," he said of Sunday's game. "After I made a couple of shots to start the game, I thought `Oh, good. The shots are going in.' . . . If you're going to do something like that (a dedication), you better do well. Deanne came down to see me play. She's been a great fan. She was going to come to this game. We've been lucky to be around her."
Throughout the game, the Grants called Deanne - who supposedly watched the game from her hospital bed - to check in on her.
"She's been absolutely wonderful," said Paul, who is a Salt Lake circuit judge. "She's taught this 55-year-old judge an awful lot about living."
On the plane ride home, Grant held Chelsea in his arms while her mother rested in a nearby seat. Midway through the flight, teammate Jimmy Soto carried Chelsea to his seat farther back in the plane to hold her for a while.
"Deanne has got such a great attitude that you'd never know anything was wrong with her," said Josh. "Only now is it getting bad. Now it's beginning to sink in."