May 09--Dustin Maguire has heard the labels most of his life's 26 years.
Growing up in Edwardsville and Bethalto, he was Dustin Maguire, the basketball player. "Basketball was my identity from a very early age," he said. "It was who I was."
At Northern Kentucky University, he became was Dustin Maguire, the basketball player that got cancer. "It's a little weird because that's what I'm known for out here," Maguire said. "I'm the basketball player that got cancer."
With Saturday's graduation from NKU's Chase College of Law comes a new label: Dustin Maguire, attorney at law.
"Best advice I ever got," Maguire said, recalling the message delivered by a former NBA player at a basketball camp for elite players. "Greg Anthony talked to us at ABC camp one year out in New Jersey and told us, 'Use basketball, don't let basketball use you.'
"I didn't know it at the time, but I was able to use basketball to get a law degree. It's amazing, it really is."
So was the journey putting Maguire in cap and gown Saturday in Highland Heights, Ky.
He was a high-school star at Civic Memorial, scoring more than 1,500 points in his first three seasons with the Eagles. Maguire transferred to Edwardsville, where he had lived until middle school, for his senior season.
With the Tigers, the 6-foot-5 Maguire earned Associated Press Class AA All-State honors while averaging 16.4 points per game for a Edwardsville team that finished 30-1 with a State Finals trip to Peoria in 2006.
That prep career brought Maguire both adulation and disdain -- with the loudest of those cheers and boos coming the same mouths. That adversity would intensify in college.
Maguire was recruited to Saint Louis University by coach Brad Soderberg, but a change at SLU left Maguire playing for coach Rick Majerus. It was not a good fit -- "That year under (Majerus) was pretty miserable," Maguire has said -- and Maguire transferred to Northern Kentucky.
Maguire lit up national power Louisville for 33 points in his first game and went on to lead the Norse in scoring as a sophomore. He was a preseason Division II All-America before his junior season, but a back injury that would later require spine surgery limited Maguire to just eight games.
May 2010 brought the news that stunned Maguire -- testicular cancer at age 22. Surgery was deemed successful, but four months later, cancer was back in his lymph nodes. He left NKU to return home for nine weeks of chemotherapy.
It was then that Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo extended an invitation for Maguire to join the Tigers staff as an assistant coach. It was short stint, but the experience was impactful.
"I was only there the one year, but the things coach Waldo taught me -- even though I only played for him one year, I always went to his camps as a kid and was always around Tiger basketball as an Edwardsville kid growing up -- the things coach Waldo taught me help me to this day," Maguire said. "The discipline and everyday approach you learn as a player for him, I got to see that again when I coached for him. It was great to have the opportunity when I was sick and going through the chemotherapy to have basketball again.
"Coach Waldo stepped up and gave me the chance to be a part of that and it's something I'll never forget."
Chemotherapy reduced Maguire's lymph nodes to normal size and the cancer was gone. But with doctors predicting a 60 percent chance of the cancer returning, Maguire opted for radical surgery -- retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (RPLND) -- that would rid his body of the couriers that can spread testicular cancer to the lungs, liver, brain and other organs.
Maguire has been cancer-free since that surgery in Indianapolis late in December 2010. "Everything's great," he said Thursday in a phone interview. Maguire returned for the 2011 fall semester at NKU , where he was the men's basketball program's first to graduate Magna Cum Laude and be accepted to the university's law school.
There, another coach extended Maguire another lifeline. Norse coach Dave Bezold took Maguire on as a graduate assistant coach, a position Maguire retained through law school. Maguire said Bezold and the NKU community "supported me 100 percent. It was special and something I will always remember."
Basketball was an outlet Maguire had always craved. Now, he finds similar nourishment in the law and his aspirations of being both lawyer and basketball coach have been revised.
"All I ever knew was basketball, so I thought I would get into coaching," Maguire said. "But I really want to focus on practicing law. I have the same competitiveness for law practice that I had for basketball. I always said I want to find something that I care about as much as I care about basketball. I found it in practicing law and the way I can help people. I'm really looking forward to pouring myself into that."
Maguire has been working as a law clerk at a Cincinnati area firm, but plans to return home after graduation and seek a position in St. Louis practicing insurance law. He will sit for the bar exam in July.
"In a lot of ways I'm looking forward to getting back home and starting over without that being my sole identity," Maguire said of the basketball player who got cancer label. "But I've got no complaints. It's been great, it's been a hell of a ride being a part of the basketball program here at Northern Kentucky as a graduate assistant coach. ... But there's so much more than just basketball and I've been able to see that the past few years."
Still, his love for the game remains and so does his gratitude. "It's amazing," Maguire said, "what basketball has led to."
Now, Maguire will live with new labels. Former basketball player. Attorney. Cancer survivor.
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