CLACKAMAS, Ore. — One of the premiere youth basketball programs in the country is in Portland. They’re called the PDX Ballers.
“None of us go to the same school. We're from everywhere,” said Braylon Gaines, who’s been with the program from the beginning. “It’s all your best friends competing together.”
It all started in 2015.
“We practiced in the backyard in the dirt, we literally got this out of the mud,” said Head Coach Nate Schregardus. “My number one goal for every kid that comes through this program is show them love, keep them off the streets and try to get them a scholarship to pay for their college.”
The PDX Ballers travel around the country playing in tournaments and quickly found success.
“We started becoming the northwest juggernaut,” said Schregardus. “From 2015-2018, we didn't lose a game against anybody our age.”
With the support of a village, one team turned into a program. PDX Ballers expanded to five teams, from 3rd graders to 8th graders.
“The 2027 class is the best team in the region and has been for years,” said John Barhoum, who has a son on the team. “With that success, other kids have wanted to come here.”
Coach Schregardus has made an impact on the kids, on and off the court.
“He's meant so much to me,” said Gaines. “He's like a mentor, like an uncle, everything. He's always there for me.”
14-year-old Aaron Caston joined the team a year ago and has felt a special bond with his teammates and coach.
“We’re like a family,” said Caston. “We love him. He's a great father figure to his son and he's a great coach.”
To everyone in the local basketball community, he’s known as Coach Nate, often the most popular person in the gym.
“You can't walk into an AAU gym anywhere in Portland without kids coming up and showing Nate love,” said Barhoum. “It's crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it. No one has had a bigger impact on our community, the basketball community, than Nate.”
Through the highs and the lows, Coach Nate has kept the program going.
“This is what I was born to do. This is why I was born to coach, I was born to help kids. I was born to use my life to touch other people's lives and I just want to continue to be able to do that”
The 38-year-old husband and father of three is fighting for his life. Diagnosed with stage four penile cancer.
“My son is 15 years old, and that's how old I was when my dad passed away, so telling my son and my daughter was one of the hardest things I ever had to do,” said Scregardus.
He and his wife got the news one day after they got married.
“I believe it's supposed to make us stronger,” said Tyreisha Schregardus, Nate’s wife. “I know he's upset that it had to happen like this and it's ok. I signed up for this. This is what we do. We survive.”
He’s a survivor since day one.
“I was born highly addicted to heroin. My biological mom struggled with some demons when she was pregnant with me, to the point where I was left in the hospital,” said Schregardus. “Then two people, Fred and Connie Schregardus they took me in and adopted me.”
Proof he’s defied the odds before.
“I don't believe in these odds and these numbers they throw at me with this cancer stuff. I don't pay attention to that. I'm not supposed to be here on numerous occasions.”
The original prognosis wasn’t good. The cancer is spreading, but an update from his doctor added fuel to the fight.
“She seemed hopeful and even used words like curable.”
He’s got a lot of people in his corner.
“All PDX. He made this team and it's our duty to be there for him,” said Caston.
“We're going to be there with Coach Nate every step of the way as he fights this,” said Derek Smith, a parent with the team.
The team created a GoFundMe to help with the expenses. The donations came flooding in, more than $12,000 in the first few days.
“It was really humbling. it made me real emotional,” said Schregardus. “It gives me strength, it's given me strength. I'm going to beat this. Cancer is not going to be the end of my story.”
There is a game plan in place. His road to recovery begins with chemo therapy in the coming weeks. Schregardus thanks his coaching staff for taking care of the program while he’s focused on getting better. If you would like to show support visit the PDX Ballers GoFundMe page.