AUSTIN -- Cameron Powells name does not appear on the University of Miami basketball roster. His contribution to the Hurricanes historic season is not reflected on any box score, and he is unable to be at the Frank Erwin Center this afternoon when the No. 2-seeded Canes play their NCAA Tournament opener against No. 15 seed Pacific.
But anybody who has been around this magical Miami team this season knows that Cameron is a big reason sixth-year senior center Julian Gamble plays with the energy he does, came out of three knee surgeries stronger than ever, and truly appreciates the opportunity to be a college athlete something often lost on big young men in big shorts with big egos and big NBA dreams.
Gamble says he embraces every minute on and off the court because he has learned to from Powell, his 9-year-old nephew. Cameron has cerebral palsy and Bartter syndrome, a rare kidney disorder that required him to spend 10 of his first 12 months of life in the hospital. He has undergone 10 major surgeries, speaks only a few words, and is fed formula through a tube every three hours.
When UM clinched the Atlantic Coast Conference championship last Sunday in Greensboro, N.C., after a thrilling win against North Carolina, the first thing Gamble did was jump over the UM bench and head into the stands to give his mother and Cameron hugs and kisses. The sight of Gamble, a hulking heavily tattooed 6-10 and 250-pound guy gently kiss- ing the cheek of his fragile nephew, was enough to bring Gambles mother, Sarah, to tears.
We have an incredible relationship, and he really keeps me grounded, Gamble said of his nephew, who lives in Durham, N.C., with Julians mother. He makes me appreciate life a little bit more. Hes my pride and joy, along with my mom. Having them with me at the ACC championship was incredible. Whenever I face any obstacle, I think of Cameron and he gives me strength. If he can get through what he does every day, how can I not appreciate my life?
Sarah Gamble concedes she was upset and extremely disappointed when her eldest daughter, Raquel, on a full basketball scholarship at Norfolk State University, called during her first semester with news that she was pregnant.
I never finished college, something I still regret, and I wanted better for my children, said Sarah Gamble. So, to be honest, when I found out this baby was going to be born, I was pretty upset with my daughter. I know how hard it is to raise a child, and we didnt even know yet that Cameron would be such a sick little boy.
When Cameron was 3 weeks old, he was diagnosed with the kidney disorder, and the cerebral palsy set in a few months later. Sarah Gamble and her husband had separated when Julian was 7. She was working full time in human resources at the time Cameron was born, making $60,000, living in a nice house and driving a Mazda Millenia. Julian and his two brothers were in high school, and everything was going well.
She tried to let her daughter take responsibility for her newborn son, but realized soon after Cameron was born that Raquel was not prepared to care for a special-needs child. One doctor suggested that the department of child services be called because Cameron did not appear to have a stable family environment. Hearing those words broke Sarah Gambles heart.