On a hardwood floor in his native Jersey City, N.J., Antonio Sellers found out that he's going to be setting foot on another basketball court this week: Coach K Court, at this weekend's Duke-UNC showdown.
Sellers, a 16-year-old varsity basketball player for his local high school, has been battling brain cancer since March 2019. Last week, the Make-A-Wish Foundation surprised him with tickets to see Duke men's basketball host the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this Saturday.
“When we heard about Antonio’s wish just a few short weeks ago, our team and our colleagues at Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina went straight to work to make that happen,” wrote Chris Bogusz, chief of staff for Make-A-Wish New Jersey, to The Chronicle via an email from a spokesperson. “Thanks to the generosity of Duke University, Duke Basketball and close friends of ours who are famed Blue Devil alumni, Antonio’s weekend in North Carolina is going to be an incredible one."
Flanked by his coaches, teammates, classmates and family on the basketball court at Hudson Catholic Regional High School in Jersey City, Sellers rocked a Duke jersey—with a proud #1 on the front—and a baseball cap with Duke basketball branding. In the spirit of a true Cameron Crazie, Sellers broke into a chant of "Duke! Duke! Duke!" when he was told about the trip to North Carolina.
"I was about to cry but I can't do that right now," Sellers told reporters at the ceremony.
The moment capped off a day that Sellers had been less than excited about. To keep the tickets a secret, his mother had told him that he had to go to school for an assembly—but did not tell him what it was about.
“My mom told me I gotta do something [at school]," he told NJ.com. “So I was like, ahh.”
She knew that it would be worth it to him, though. His father, Keith Sellers, told NJ.com that his son has been a fan of Duke "since he was able to understand college basketball."
The tickets aren't Sellers' only connection to the iconic rivalry game. Jim Spanarkel played at Hudson Catholic more than 40 years ago before his All-American-caliber career at Duke that saw him become the men's basketball team's first 2,000-point scorer.
Another Duke legend, Bobby Hurley, now the head men's basketball coach at Arizona State, also sent Sellers well-wishes.
Now, Antonio Sellers will have a chance to leave his own mark on the history of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"This is something Antonio always wanted,” Antonio’s mother Felicia Sellers told CBS New York. “Duke was the school, he always said, that's where I want to go play. Our journey has been a little different, we've taken a different road, and although he has to go to Duke and visit this way I believe that he's going to be visiting another way down the road."
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Editor's Note: This article was updated March 5 at 5 p.m. with Bogusz's quote.