HOMETOWN HOOPS: Northside newcomer's battles go well beyond basketball

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) -- After Northside secured its first state title in school history last season, the Vikings' home recently got a small makeover.

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"It's kind of different," said Northside head coach Bill Pope, with a chuckle.

It's now called Bill Pope Gymnasium, named after a head coach with nearly 550 career wins to his name.

"I love his pregame speeches. I love his fiery passion for the game," said junior forward Jamison Foley.

Foley was a newcomer to Coach Pope's squad for this 2020 season.

A Lord Botetourt transplant, Foley also ended up in Pope's AP U.S. history class at Northside.

"He's what makes coaching and teaching really fun," Pope said. "He gives you 100 percent every day. Anybody can come here and watch, and probably within five minutes, they're saying, 'Wow, he really goes hard.'"

That fighting spirit, though, was put to the test a few years ago, when Foley's mother, Sandy, got news that changed their world.

"She was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. I was shocked. I didn't know what emotions to feel," Jamison said.

Sandy's battle was just beginning.

"She was a fighter. She didn't want to give up for me, for my grandma, for my family," Jamison said. "But it reached a certain point where she just couldn't do it anymore. She stopped doing chemotherapy and then went into hospice care."

Sandra Foley died on November 19, just days before the start of Jamison's junior season.

In that dark time, the court now named for his coach became Foley's second home.

"Just shooting, making the right play in the game, takes my mind off of everything, honestly, and I just love it," he said.

Foley is hungry to accomplish what some of his new teammates did a year ago. And he knows, along the way, his biggest fan will still be there looking on.

"I think about that I'm playing for her," Foley said. "I want to do the right thing for her. She was a sweetheart. She cared a lot about me. She just wanted to see me do well in life, and that's what I need to do: continue on."

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