Patrick Dorsey, a Millbrook senior guard, played with a heavy heart this year.
In October, about a month before his senior season began, Dorsey’s dad, Alan Dorsey, died of cancer. He was 48.
Before every game, Dorsey thought of how his dad would want him to play: tough on defense and with a team mindset. If there was an extra pass to be made, make it.
For Dorsey, the season was never easy. There were games where he wasn’t feeling it. His dad, who taught him everything he knew about the game, weighed heavily on his mind.
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But the 6-5, 170-pound guard averaged 17.1 points per game, 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.7 steals per game for Millbrook this season. The Wildcats made it to the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs, but lost to Seventy-First High School in Fayetteville, 70-64.
Dorsey’s accomplishments this season has earned him a spot in the Carolinas All-Star Basketball Classic.
The annual game, which was played in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Saturday, pits the top North Carolina basketball seniors against the top South Carolina basketball seniors.
“When I found out I was really excited because it’s a great honor to be thought of as one of the better seniors in North Carolina,” Dorsey said. “I really didn’t ever imagine being selected so when I was selected, it made it that much more exciting.”
Scott McInnes, who recently stepped down as Millbrook’s coach after 17 years, will coach Dorsey and the North Carolina team.
Like father, like son
Dorsey learned the game of basketball from his dad. Alan Dorsey played college basketball for James Madison from 1987 to 1991. He was a 6-8 forward known for his shooting stroke.
Like father like son: The younger Dorsey is too.
Dorsey still remembers shooting baskets in the cul-de-sac at his old house when he was child. His dad made him stand two feet from the basket to work on his form. When he perfected his form – keeping his elbows in – he was allowed to move back some.
The more he shot, the better he got.
Alan Dorsey always told his son he was a better shooter than him.
“I don’t know about that, but he’s the reason I can shoot,” Dorsey said. “He just knew everything about the game, so he’d always tell me what to do. What I did wrong.”
Dorsey finished his senior season with 99 3-pointers. That is second in school history, one 3-pointer behind Chris Clemons, who’s now a star guard at Campbell.
In the John Wall Invitational in December, Dorsey made a career-high seven 3-pointers in a game against Cox Mill of Concord. Cox Mill is led by Wendell Moore, a highly-touted North Carolina recruit.
Dorsey made six 3-pointers in the third quarter alone, bringing the crowd to its feet every time he touched the ball. He finished with 23 points that game.
Dorsey believes his dad was there in spirit fueling him.
“A lot of times once I get going, I can start hitting a lot,” Dorsey said. “And that’s kind of just what happened.”
Dorsey’s dad saw many basketball highlights in his son’s career, including a shot that was aired on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Millbrook played against Northwest Guilford in the Powerade State Games last summer. With just a few seconds on the clock before halftime, Dorsey corralled a defensive rebound with one hand at the Northwest Guilford baseline.
He turned quickly toward the basket and with one hand flung the ball the full length of the court. The shot went in. The shot didn’t make it in time to beat the buzzer, but it was the top highlight on SportsCenter’s Top 10 “Plays of the Day,” beating out professional teams.
Alan and Michele Dorsey, his mom, were right under the basket as the shot went through the net.
“We could have caught it,” Michele Dorsey said.
No one could believe it. Not even his dad, who tended to remain calm at his son’s games.
“I think everyone was in shock,” Patrick Dorsey said.
‘A total shock’
Alan Dorsey had been sick for years. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, when his eldest son was in the eighth grade. He had good days and bad days.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer formed by malignant plasma cells, according to cancer.org.
In multiple myeloma, the overgrowth of plasma cells in the bone marrow can crowd out normal blood-forming cells, leading to low blood counts. That can cause anemia, or a shortage in red blood cells. People with anemia become pale, weak and fatigued.
The cause of multiple myeloma is generally unknown. It is considered treatable but incurable. It is rare and occurs in 0.7 percent of people, more commonly in people over 60 years old.
Although Alan Dorsey had cancer, he was still active.
He was considered a nice man and quiet at his son’s games. But when he was on the court himself, it was as if a switch turned on, his family describes.
He played in adult basketball leagues and still had the same competitive fire he once had as a player in college. He once received a couple of technical fouls in a recreation league game for arguing calls. It’s something the family used to joke about.
Sports are common in the Dorsey family. Patrick Dorsey’s older sister is a freshman basketball player for the College of Charleston, his younger brother played on the junior varsity team as a ninth-grader at Millbrook this year, and his younger sister, who is in seventh grade, plays lacrosse.
“Our whole family is competitive, which really helped his dad when you’re fighting something like cancer to be competitive,” Michele Dorsey said. “You don’t give up. Keep going.”
Alan Dorsey had bone marrow and stem cell transplants to fight the cancer. Both times he came out on top.
But in October, five years after being diagnosed, Alan Dorsey wasn’t feeling well. He went to the hospital. Less than a day after he returned from the hospital, he died.
“It was really shocking,” Michele Dorsey said. “It was hardly any time. Not even a whole day from the time he came home from the hospital to the time he passed in the hospice.”
Mix of emotions
Michele Dorsey said many people were unsure if her son could get through his senior year.
Dorsey never expected his dad to die. And it came right before his most important basketball season. But he had a good support system, from his coaches to his aunts and uncles.
The season had its ups and downs. There were times when Patrick was in a slump.
“He would kind of get in a funk, because it would be someone’s birthday in the family, and he would miss his dad a ton,” McInnes, his coach, said. “We’d try to keep talking to him and keep loving on him and hope he would bounce out of it.”
When he was down the coaches would often take him to the gym and have him put up at least 100 3-pointers to get his mind focused.
“Normally you would want kids to go to counseling, but in a weird way I think basketball was some of his therapy,” McInnes said. “It was mostly a special place he could get away.”
Dorsey tries to think about his father in whatever he does. He said his dad would want him to move on to the next game if he were having a bad one.
To honor his dad this season, Dorsey wore No. 21, the same number his dad wore at James Madison. He was wearing that number when he hit the seven 3s in December.
“I think it’s kind of helped me, to think about how he went about him fighting through cancer,” Dorsey said. “It shouldn’t be that hard for me. ... Not giving up and not complaining about my circumstance. To keep playing.”
So he didn’t complain. And he kept playing.
Dorsey hopes to play college basketball next season. He wants to play Division I but would be content playing anywhere. He said he’s only gotten an offer from Chowan, a Division II school, so far.
“The Citadel is interested, Campbell is interested, UMBC, Western Carolina, USC Upstate,” he said. “But there’s like a lot of Division IIs. Barton College, Lenoir-Rhyne, Chowan University, they’ve offered me.”
Going into the Carolinas All-Star Basketball Classic, Dorsey hoped his play would have made his dad proud.
“I’ve told him, ‘Patrick you’ve become a man this year. You’ve made your father proud,’ ” McInnes said. “You’ve made Alan Dorsey proud. That was one of his goals to make his daddy proud and he’s done it. I know his father Alan has watched a lot of his games from above. And he’s proud of him.”