COLLEGE PARK--Mark Turgeon’s Maryland basketball team struggled during his first season in College Park, but there was one person on the sidelines who continued to pace the Terrapins and push positivity and refuse mediocrity.
That was student manager Zach Lederer.
“The way he approached practice my first year, we weren’t a very good basketball team and he didn’t accept that,” Turgeon recalled to the media on Saturday. “So he rubbed off on all of us.”
Turgeon and his players took time to express their solidarity and support of Lederer on Saturday when news came that the 20-year-old’s condition had become more complicated in recent days as his battle with cancer waged on.
Lederer is a beloved figure in the Maryland community whose inspiring courage was captured in one picture, where he flexed his muscles from his hospital bed after undergoing brain surgery to remove a portion of the tumor from inside his body.
The pose set off a movement, dubbed “Zaching”, that brought the collectiveness of a community to the battle that an individual was fighting.
Numerous Maryland athletes have shown their support in recent days, including sophomore forward Charles Mitchell and senior cornerback Dexter McDougle.
On Saturday, junior guard Dez Wells spoke in an intimate manner about his experience dealing with a loss at the hands of the disease, having lost his 7-year-old cousin when he was a teenager.
“I have a soft spot for his situation,” Wells said. “He’s been a great inspiration for me, you know, just seeing somebody like that fight like he’s been doing.
“I’m pretty sure they’ve come to grips about what his situation is … My family is there for his family and I’ve talked to his mom and his father and I’m going to continue to do that because this is a serious situation.”
In his closing comments to the media on Saturday, Turgeon recalled the content of an e-mail that was once sent to him about Lederer.
“He’s only 20 years old and he’s touched more people than some people that live to be 80 and that just really kind of just tells you … how special Zach is.”