Sgt. Lawson Most Improved Player of the Year – Korreal Renbarger
(A new tradition for North City Training and AAU is to announce a “Sgt. Lawson Most Improved Player of the Year,” to the young player who embraces the training, improves their basketball game and makes an impact off the court.)
By Andrew Grinaker, North City Founder/Coach
At first glance, Korreal appears to be like most 7th graders his age. He is loud at times. He jokes around his friends as they make fun of each other. And of course, he loves to play basketball. The more you get to know Korreal, the more his true personality comes out. He is very passionate about his game and loves to compete.
When Korreal tried out for our 2017 AAU team, we pegged him as a post player that could help our North City White team. The bad news was that he was going to be the only post on the team. As it turns out, being the only post was also good news for Korreal. He flourished with more playing time and improved his post game over the course of the spring season. Like many of our other players, he also worked his tail off in our strength training and conditioning sessions, and became faster, more explosive and stronger in the process.
Korreal’s full time spring coach, Dan Grinaker (and my brother) remarked to me at practice about two months into the season how excited he was about Korreal’s progress and really thought he could turn into a special player if he continued to work hard and listen to his coaches.
(Korreal pictured (left) with Coach Dan Grinaker (right) after a game)
As it turns out, we didn’t know how special of player and person Korreal Renbarger already was. It wasn’t until almost three months into the season that we found out about Korreal’s story.
“Korreal is a cancer survivor.” Jenni Renbarger, Korreal’s mom said. “Korreal was 5yrs old when he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, which is a rare type of cancer for kids his age.
“He went through 4 months of chemo and by the grace of god he has been cancer free for 7yrs and 10 mos, but who’s counting,” Jenni said with a smile.
When Korreal joined his new North City White team, he didn’t know any of his teammates but never once mentioned his previous illness. He just continued to work hard during practice and training, focusing on getting better and improving his basketball game. By the mid season, he was a team favorite and always made the coaches laugh with some of his jokes or antics.
Even after learning about his story, we still haven’t mentioned it to Korreal. The coaches want Korreal to continue to focus his efforts on getting better, becoming a better person and learning about the game that he loves so much.
“This has been so good for him and I have seen a big change with how he interacts with his classmates and teammates, “Jenn said. “I thank you and Dan for your parts in helping him develop not only better basketball skills but lifelong skills.”
Today, Korreal has a bright future ahead of him. He has turned into a solid post player, that works harder than his competiton for rebounds and loose balls. The North City program looks forward to seeing Korreal and all of the other players next year.