By Aaron Blankenship | Photos courtesy of Scott Dring
Aidan Dring surprised and inspired his coaches and teammates to return to the Dublin Coffman basketball squad just in time for the Shamrocks’ inaugural fall season, Less than three months after brain surgery.
Despite his stamina severely impaired by 33 grueling radiotherapy treatments that ended just days before the start of his first season, the shooting ranger worked as a closed defender and averaged five points playing limited minutes.
“It’s still amazing to think about what Aidan had to fight through just so he could get back into our squad,” said coach Jimmy Collins, who finished his injury-hit side 9-12 overall. “First, he had to go through a difficult and terrifying surgery. After that, he had over a month of radiation that exhausted his energy and conditioning, leaving him with a fuel tank that became empty faster than anyone else.
“But Aidan is a special young man from a special family, he has given her every ounce of energy he has every day, and it has been a pleasure seeing him come back and contribute the way he did.”
Overwhelmed and frustrated at the conclusion of his first season, Dring initially decided to give up on his long-running dream of playing college basketball.
But after Collins persuaded him to reconsider, Dring quickly sensed the return of the competition itch, and agreed to resume visiting Division III college basketball programs.
It didn’t take long for Dring to find the right home, as he verbally pledged to play basketball at Baldwin Wallace University on April 12.
“It’s crazy looking back at everything I’ve been through, and I’m really grateful I wouldn’t have had this opportunity without the help of so many different people,” Dring said. “I felt comfortable and relaxed for a while because I still wasn’t (well) 100 percent by the end of my graduation season.
“But I had a long talk with Coach Collins that made me rethink my decision, and I realized I’ve been working towards that goal my whole life, and if I didn’t go into this now, I might not be able to do it later, and I probably would have regretted it.”
“It feels good because I worked so hard for this, and I deserve it.”
After basketball coaches Kaufman and Athletic Director Duane Sheldon Announcing that Dring was looking forward to playing college basketball, he was invited to visit Baldwin Wallace in early April.
Sheldon served as head coach at Baldwin Wallace from 2008 to 2015, and led the Yellow Jackets to a record 98-83 in seven seasons.
“My visit to Baldwin Wallace was a really great experience,” said Dring. “It’s a really nice campus and I had lunch with their current players, and I felt like everything there was fine.
“I’m really grateful to my coaches, especially coach Collins, coach Sheldon and (Kauffman’s assistant coach) Trail Jackson, because they taught me so much about the game and did so much for me to get to this point.”
Dring was hired by Baldwin Wallace coach Tom Hill, who led the Yellow Vests to a record 101-70 in seven seasons, after serving as Sheldon’s assistant for five seasons (2009-14).
Collins said Hill is getting a gem of a multi-faceted leader and player, after watching Dring gradually recover over the summer.
No longer feeling drained by his radiotherapy, Dring has gone on to reclaim his ability to be a dangerous defender handling the ball, distributing it and shooting it with a masterful touch.
“(Hill) saw Aidan when we played at Baldwin Wallace last summer when he was at his best, and he felt it was a risk worth taking,” Collins said. “After a bit of a break, Aidan looks like Aidan again, and I feel like Baldwin Wallace will be rewarded for believing in him, because he’s one of the best youngsters and teammates anyone can have.
“At first, I was glad that Aidan was able to fulfill his dream of playing college basketball. But when I saw him play recently and make a move on the court to show his true potential, I now think that the son of a gun has a chance to be a nice college player who will help Baldwin Wallace.”
Scott and Jane Dring are incredibly proud of their son, especially after witnessing the mental and physical toughness of Lidan as his health rapidly deteriorated late last summer.
Aidan had high expectations for his first season, having averaged 8.1 points and was named to the second team in all leagues, mentioned as a Supervisor in all counties while leading Shamrock to a record 12-7 as a rookie.
However, Dring began having dizzy spells and feeling nauseous in August, and became so ill on his way to a recruiting visit to Allegheny College in early September that he had to come home abruptly and go to the hospital.
That’s when an MRI revealed he had a large neuroma growing near the bottom of his brainstem. Ependymomas are rare cancerous tumors that start in the brain or spinal cord.
Just six days after the tumor was discovered, Dring underwent brain surgery.
“When they told me they found a mass in his brain, it felt like an out-of-body experience, and I just lost all control and started crying,” Jane Dring said. “Aidan was conservative, but he was afraid of losing the life he knew and was no longer able to play basketball.”
On September 9, famous neurosurgeon Jeffrey Leonard removed the tumor from Dring’s brain during an eight-hour operation, in which Scott and Jane spent 21 years.Street Wedding anniversary supplication for their son in the waiting room.
Dring came home just three days after his surgery, and surprised his teammates and coaches when he started attending Kaufman’s open sessions at the gym two days later.
However, Dring had to endure 33 consecutive days of radiotherapy, beginning in late October and ending on November 24, severely draining his energy.
“What Aidan was able to achieve by bringing him back to our team was unreal, because words cannot describe what it was like when I saw him when he was in his lowest moments (recovery),” said Ryan Lane, who was Aidan. Best friend since kindergarten and Kaufman graduated by his side in late May. “It was surreal to get Aidan back on the field with us during the last open gym, because shortly before that, he wasn’t even able to walk.
“Aidan didn’t have the season he was hoping for, but he contributed, motivating us to want to get the best of ourselves every single day. There were times when some of us weren’t feeling well because we got beaten up or sick, but then we looked at How difficult it was for Aidan to play after brain surgery and he wasn’t even complaining at all, and that made us all want to follow in his footsteps.”
Dring has received streams of messages and tweets with words of encouragement from countless people, including college coaches, high school coaches and players from other teams.
Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtman sent Aidan a video message wishing him a speedy recovery, gifting his family three tickets behind the Buckeyes bench for a home game.
A large community gathering was held in Aidan’s honor the day before the surgery, and his older brother, Tyler, returned home from the University of Cincinnati to support his family during surgery.
Liv Dring—a Kaufman senior and Aidan’s younger sister—and his basketball pals painted the large boulder outside Kauffman Football Field white. Students from Kaufman and Jerome had green and gold handprints on the rock in a united display in support of Aidan before the Celtics and Shamrocks set off for a soccer game on September 10.
Several Kaufman footballers put Aidan’s uniform number 23 on the ankle strap before Jerome played. And after Shamrock defeated the Celtics 49-42 in overtime, Kaufman’s players posed for a photo in midfield with Liv, who held a large photo of her brother.
“The entire Central Ohio basketball community, and many other people, have been amazing through the process, and we are so grateful for their support,” said Gene Dring.
Dring was allowed to begin participating in full contact practices again in early November, and had made his way back into Coffman’s starting lineup by the time the season opened.
Despite being further drained by an annoying virus that knocked him out of the starting lineup for several games in January as he regained his confidence and started making progress, Dring continued to move farther in practice and in the classroom.
Dring scored 18 points in Shamrock’s 66-56 loss to Hilliard Bradley in the regular season final on February 18, and was honored with the Athletic Scholar Award at the Ohio Capital-Ohio Conference. Academic and sports standards.
“I worked really hard, but I never really got my endurance back all the way back,” Dring said. “I had about 80 to 90 percent of my previous energy level in the first two minutes of games, but then it would only go down to about 50 percent and I would get tired because I kept running up and down the field. It was frustrating.
“But my teammates gave me the energy I needed to keep going, because they trusted me to play and be a captain, so it was 100 per cent worth all the hard work I put in, because I’ve played with these guys and be part of this team again.”
Dring plans to major in sports marketing, aiming for a spot in Baldwin Wallace’s lineup.
Jane Dring said her son has already proven to be a huge success story, no matter how many minutes he plays or how many points he scores for the Yellow Vests.
“We are very proud of Adan,” Jen said. “The fact that he has accomplished what he has accomplished in the last 10 months is amazing regardless of what he did at Baldwin Wallace. We are very fortunate that some families may have broken up under these circumstances, and I want to make sure that we never lose a sense of gratitude for how we got through this and what we have” .
Collins said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Aidan continue to excel in basketball at the next level.
“Over the past three weeks, Aidan’s energy has returned, and he’s starting to look like the whole league player he was before all of this happened,” Collins said. “So much about Baldwin Wallace’s show character says that they’ve still been able to see his potential, and now we’re all really excited about his future.
“This was an emotional rollercoaster of the season. I wouldn’t shed more tears for Aidan than I already did, but the special thing was that most of them were for joy rather than sadness because Aidan continued to pursue his dreams.”