Life was good for Timothy Kendricks. He was a popular basketball star at Wingfield High School. He had scholarship offers from numerous top-ranked universities. His skill on the court as a shooting guard was to be his ticket out of one of Jackson’s toughest inner-city neighborhoods.
Then, he was diagnosed with cancer by the age of 18. Initially, the cancer was misdiagnosed as terminal. Later, Kendricks learned it was treatable and he underwent chemotherapy and radiation. The cancer was gone within months, but so were his scholarship offers and dreams of an NBA career. It would be another year or so before Kendricks discovered his higher education destiny lay at Jackson State University, and after three years on the campus, he’ll receive his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice during commencement exercises on May 4.
“I feel like this is the best HBCU I could have chosen. Jackson State has been like a new beginning for me,” said the 25-year-old Kendricks, who has been in remission for more than five years.
“When I met Timothy Kendricks, I knew there was something more to him. It was evident that there was an untold story behind his passion of strongly wanting to succeed. So one day in my office as we were working on his application for the FBI, he began to tell me his story,” said Jeremy Hodge, a coordinator in JSU Career Services. “I was overwhelmed and almost brought to tears by the struggles that this young man had to endure in pursuit of his successes.”
Kendricks always loved sports. He played football and basketball. He was nationally ranked and was a McDonald’s All-American nominee. Going into his senior year at Wingfield, he noticed changes with his body, including shortness of breath.
“After one game, I was coughing all night and was really tired. I knew something was up. I went to the doctor and they ran a lot of tests and they found it,” Kendricks said.
Kendricks had a Wilms’ tumor. It’s a cancer of the kidneys that’s typically found in children, rarely in adults. Kendricks said he’d had the tumor since childhood, but he didn’t show symptoms until he was in his late teens.
“It could have been terminal if I had waited one more month. It had spread to my lungs, but not my liver,” he said. “I felt that out of all people why did this have to happen to me? In a way, I felt betrayed.”
Kendricks let the universities know he was sick, and the letters and scholarship offers ceased. But, Kendricks had always had faith he could beat the cancer. And, he did. He got back on the court and eventually played basketball at Marion Military Institute in Marion, Ala. That’s when he met then –Jackson State basketball coach Tevester Anderson.
“We talked about me joining his program. That was in 2010. When I got here, I was able to compete, not on my previous level, but at the right level,” Kendricks said. “I just wanted to be on the court. I turned down a scholarship to Seattle State to come to Jackson State. I wanted to play in front of my family. I just wanted to be here.”
The degree he’ll receive next week represents more than the successful completion of his required courses; it’s symbolic of his resilience and determination. The youngest of five siblings, Kendricks is the first person in his family to receive a college degree. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and work with juveniles. Kendricks is currently writing a book with Hodge about his life because he believes his story can serve as an example that no obstacle is too difficult to overcome.