Out of the throes of adversity can arise amazing stories of perseverance, resolve, character, heart, and a number of other things related to those ideals. Recently, the MML U17 team faced some adverse times in their most recent tournament in Lansing, but through it all I was reminded of a story that came full circle in that same weekend. A story of trust, timing, and temerity. One of a spark of faith through one that reached far beyond what he could have imagined. A story that now includes a 35-point, 12-rebound performance that seemed unlikely if not impossible at the time. The story of MML’s own Marquavian Stephens.
A bit less than two years ago, Marquavian was an up-and-coming freshman basketball player at Swartz Creek heading into a promising sophomore campaign. On a Wednesday night (which also happened to be the night before his 15th birthday), Marq and a number of members of the team were having one of many open gyms at the school. In an otherwise normal break in the action on the sidelines, surrounded by his friends and associates, he collapsed, the victim of the results of an arrhythmia that he knew nothing about. Thanks to God and the quick work of the basketball and volleyball coaches, a defibrillator was used to artificially restart his heart to the correct pace. The story that was told on the news later and in the newspaper detailed the events, but none told of the faith I personally witnessed with him in the time that followed.
After getting a call from another MML member that was there, I immediately started looking for updates and answers, but most importantly began to pray. With the help of social media, many gathered to share thoughts of hope and prayers for healing for a kid that had seemingly not had a negative confrontation with anyone. Even with all of that, on his 15th birthday he and his mother heard that he would likely need to have a pacemaker inserted into his chest cavity to regulate the beating of his heart due to an abnormality that went undetected until that point. While it would necessary to maintain his life, it would also spell the end of his playing career before it really got started. When I heard it, my heart sank. When I shared it with other members of the program, there was a similar response. But I learned you cannot measure the heart of a warrior.
Days had passed, tests had been run, and doctors had gone from pacemaker, to no surgery needed, and back to the need for a pacemaker. It was grueling for those on the outside so I can only imagine what he must have felt like having his hopes raised and dashed seemingly daily. I remember just praying that his mind would be okay and this setback would not cause a cloud to come over him. After all, he faced death head on and won. The only time I saw Marq in the hospital in Detroit was when I was driving back from Toledo with a fellow teammate of his that had asked to see him. Marq asked him where he had been and I found it challenging to hear him tell Marq that he had been visiting a college for basketball knowing what he was going through. However, Marq seemed to light up when he heard that. Then he said something that blew me away although I know he had no intention of doing so. He said, “Yeah, I’m going to be doing that soon.” I wondered had he not heard his own diagnosis. Then I wondered if he really believed it? All I know is I left the room that day amazed by his faith and resolve while going through it and a bit embarrassed by the lack of my own as an observer.
The next day, the doctors found the issue that had been ailing Marq and it was determined that no pacemaker was needed to be installed! When the call came to me, I immediately thought back to what he had just said in that hospital room a relative short time before that. If a young man could be so confident in his statement, how can we not be? How much smaller was what we went through in that tournament to this in the grand scheme of things?
Marq’s performance in our first game referenced above reminded me of this story and how far he had come. When adversity presents itself, I think about how strong he was through it all. I am reminded of the explanation of faith that my pastor, Dr. Lonnie W. Brown gave us; Faith is- F- Final A- Authority I- Impossible T- Things will H- Happen! Indeed the final say so was out of my hands, or Marq’s, his mom’s, his team’s, his supporters’, or anyone else’s hands. God had the final word on that issue at that time. Saturday’s performance marked the culmination of a long road back. It was not his first game back, but it was certainly the greatest recent example of his potential as a basketball player. It’s not the end, but just the begining for him as well…