Hagen Knepp has always been a skinny guy, and the extra 15 pounds he was suddenly carrying in his gut appeared out of nowhere. His preseason workouts with the Grace College men’s basketball team were becoming painful too.
Determined to make an impact as a freshman, Knepp pushed through the pain. It took a teammate telling him he didn’t look right for Knepp to see a doctor. The diagnosis was stunning.
Appendiceal cancer impacts one or two people per million each year and is most common in people between the ages of 50 and 55. But it was found in Knepp, meaning basketball would have to take a back seat, at least for the time being.
“I should have spoke up way sooner, but I didn’t because I wanted to play,” Knepp said in a recent interview. “From my perspective now, life is so much more important than a simple game of basketball.”
His first surgery in December removed his appendix and allowed doctors to see if the cancer had spread, which it had. The original plan was for Knepp to undergo six months of chemotherapy before having another surgery to remove the tumors, but doctors ultimately decided to take a different approach.
On Thursday, Knepp is receiving a “chemo bath” as part of what is expected to be a 12-hour procedure. His team and head coach Scott Moore offered their support and asked for prayers in social media posts this week.
An amazing interview with our guy Hagen Knepp!! Hagen shares his story as he was diagnosed with cancer this fall.
— Grace Basketball (@GraceBasketball) January 9, 2023
We’ve kept this somewhat private, but it seems like now is the time to share Hagen’s story. He’s an amazing young man. Please say a prayer as he has a major surgery Jan. 12th. Cancer sucks. 🙏 #Hoopin4Hagen https://t.co/fAQXFHbbaE
— Scott Moore (@CoachScottMoore) January 10, 2023
Located in Winona Lake, Indiana, Grace College is a Christian school that competes at the NAIA level. Its men’s basketball team is 15-2 and ranked No. 6 in the most recent poll released Wednesday.
Knepp scored more than 1,000 points in his career at Barr-Reeve High School (Montgomery, Indiana), averaging 19.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game as a senior. The Bible verse listed as his “life verse” on the Grace athletics website is Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
Among Knepp’s teammates at Grace are Frankie and Marcus Davidson, who lost their father, Marc, to cancer last year.
“I’ve just never met someone who is so Godly,” Knepp said of his relationship with the Davidson family. “The most horrible thing has happened to them. The way they took it and turned it into a positive and just keep looking towards God, they’re inspiring to me every day.”
Knepp is taking classes online and cheering on his teammates from afar as he waits for the next steps following the surgery. He hopes that he can encourage those around him by staying positive and spreading love.
“There’s no reason to be negative,” he said. “There’s no reason to spread any hate. There’s no reason for that because you never know. My mindset right now is to be positive, encourage others and just always be feeling good.”
In the interview, Knepp talked about the support he’s received since his diagnosis from both the community he grew up in as well as the Grace community. He specifically highlighted the impact everyone’s prayers have had on him and his family.
“All the prayer stuff, I feel that,” he said. “You know what I mean? I feel the love from everybody. I appreciate it, and my family appreciates it so much.”
Please join us at Sports Spectrum in praying for Hagen Knepp in his fight against cancer.
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