Tennessee Basketball: Chris Lofton Fights Cancer

Dee WilcoxAnalyst IMay 3, 2008

KNOXVILLE -- There was more wrong with Chris Lofton than his shot last season.

Thursday, it was revealed that the Tennessee All-American underwent surgery and radiation treatments to battle testicular cancer following the end of his junior season. The fact he was randomly drug-tested during the NCAA tournament in 2007 may have saved his life.

Reports indicate he is currently cancer-free, but must be monitored for a recurrence of the cancer for the rest of his life.

Lofton underwent surgery in March of 2007 to remove a cancerous tumor from one of his testicles.

The initial diagnosis came a few days after UT lost to Ohio State in the Sweet 16 during the 2006-07 season after Lofton failed a random drug test.

It was later determined that the failed test was not a result of drugs, but a tumor. Bloodwork and an ultrasound followed, and Lofton had surgery two days later. He underwent radiation treatments but was cleared to play the 2007-08 season.

The university, Lofton and basketball coach Bruce Pearl issued a statement Thursday confirming the illness but offering few details.

"I would like to thank everyone for respecting my privacy during the past year and I hope they continue to do so," Lofton said in the statement. "This has been a very difficult time for me and my family, but it has brought us closer together.

"I have been very blessed that we were able to catch everything early so that now I am OK," he added.

Lofton has had regular checkups since the surgery and doctors have told him the cancer has not spread.

Lofton finished as the SEC's all-time leader in three-pointers with 431 and is third on the NCAA's all-time list. He led UT in scoring last season with 15.5 points per game and plans to play professionally.

"Chris Lofton is one of the toughest players I have ever been around," said coach Bruce Pearl in statement. "Not once did he make an issue of what he has gone through. Never once did he complain.

"I think that his health issues were a factor in his play early this past season," Pearl added. "He physically and mentally overcame all of the challenges associated with battling cancer and serves as a tremendous role model to all of us.

"Even with everything he has gone through, he will go down in history as one of the best basketball players at the University of Tennessee. One day his jersey will hang in the rafters alongside some of the greats like Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King. It was an honor, privilege and joy to coach No. 5."