CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Friday was a big night for high school basketball, as teams play in district tournaments in Ohio and Kentucky. And one of the best players around plays with one of the best stories.
The people who know Riley Haubner at La Salle know that story. But he doesn't talk about it much.
We normally talk about his game on the news because he led the GCL South in scoring. But this week, we talk to him about the life experience that made him a natural fighter on the basketball court.
"He's one of the best I've ever coached," said Pat Goedde, with La Salle.
At a recent practice, his teammates grabbed him, held him, and shoved their leading scorer off the ball. They yanked his jersey. But Riley Haubner never stops competing.
"I mean he's just -- he's got the determination. It's something that was created when he was three," said Goedde.
Pictures of Riley Haubner as a child show him with a big smile. But one year, three days before Christmas, something happened.
"He was having some stomach issues so we took him down to Children's Hospital in Cincinnati," said his father Roy Haubner. "They found out he had a tumor in his left kidney. A day later they operated and took out the tumor and his left kidney."
It took more than five months of chemotherapy and five years of check-ups before doctors would call Riley Haubner as cancer survivor.
"I kind of remember like losing my hair and stuff like that," he says. "I guess I didn't realize how serious the ordeal I was going through until after and my parents were like, 'You beat cancer.'"
He lost his hair, but he never lost his youth -- and he never lost his natural talent to play sports.
Riley Haubner recently won the GCL co-conference player of the year. But what's more important than winning any award is never losing perspective on the biggest win of his young life.
"You know, every morning I walk down the hall and see him there and say, 'It's a great day.' It doesn't matter what happens during that day or that month -- we've got Riley. So, it's a good day," said Roy Haubner.
Those who know Riley Haubner know he doesn't talk much about his past. The small scars of childhood cancer surgery are now hidden under a high school basketball jersey.
It's a game he plays without limitations. It's the same way he says he lives his life -- as a natural fighter and survivor.
"I mean sometimes it crosses my mind, but I don't try to think about it much. I mean, it's part of me, but I just need to keep on living my life," he said.
His coach says he tries to prove everybody wrong, that he has a chip on his shoulder, fighting and scrapping every minute.
"I definitely hope that my story can inspire people who are struggling with cancer that you can beat it. I've had a pretty good basketball year so there are definitely better things ahead," said Riley Haubner.