Martin Hester and Martha Parker-Hester faced the greatest fear parents can have. Their 5-year-old daughter, Corrie, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common childhood leukemia.
The positive news was the cure rate for that form of cancer is nearly 85 percent. Corrie went through 2½ years of chemotherapy and has been cancer-free ever since.
“We were so thankful she fell into that category of being cancer-free and still does as far as she’s been clear right at 10 years,” Parker-Hester said. “She’s healthy and right where she needs to be.”
The ‘where she needs to be’ is at Ben Lippen School where Corrie is a sophomore and budding star on the basketball court. The oldest of three children, Corrie is following in her mother’s footsteps. Parker-Hester was a three-time All-American at the University of South Carolina and has been inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame. She ranks sixth on the all-time scoring list at South Carolina with 1,728 career points and is second in steals with 284.
But when it comes time to comparing her game with what her mother accomplished, Corrie and everyone who has played a role in her basketball development is quick to point out she is her own player.
“I used to think I had to live up to how she played and how good she was,” Corrie said. “Finally she told me one day that I was my own player and I needed to do the best that I could and don’t try to live up to anything anyone else puts in front of me. I used to want to play college basketball, but God is opening and closing other doors, and I am just playing the best that I can.”
Parker-Hester coached Corrie from the time she began playing church league basketball. In fact, she and her husband, Martin, both physicians who are in family practice together in Columbia, have helped all three of their children coming up. Seth, 14, plays on the Ben Lippen middle school team and Eden, 8, plays on a church league team.
All three children developed a love for basketball despite the fact that neither parent pushed them. Martin Hester didn’t play on the collegiate level but plays basketball as often as possible and loves coaching it.
When it comes to Corrie, Parker-Hester says that her daughter is her own worst critic and doesn’t need to play up to anyone else’s expectations.
“Corrie has always been one to put too much pressure on herself anyway,” Parker-Hester said. “She is a pleaser so we try to do everything but put pressure on her. She’s her own person. She’s a strong kid and knows she’s been given a gift. She loves basketball and tries to do the best of her ability so I don’t think anything I’ve done in the past puts any added pressure on her. She doesn’t need to measure up to that. Her strength of where she’s been and where she’s going is far more than I’ve ever had. She handles the pressure fine. She just doesn’t need to put too much pressure on herself.”
Cindy Cummings has been Corrie’s coach at Ben Lippen since she was a starter in the eighth grade. Corrie was the second-leading scorer on the team then and has been the leading scorer the past two seasons, including this year where she is averaging 19 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists a game.
Cummings says Corrie doesn’t let outside distractions bother her. She is more focused on what she can accomplish on the court than living up to the legend of her mother.
“Corrie is her own player,” Cummings said. “She’s not Martha Parker-Hester, but she has an incredible desire to make the players around her better. She is very unselfish. She passes the ball sometimes when we don’t necessarily want her to. Corrie strives to be the best player she can be. I guess the history books will decide where she stands. Her desire is to get better every day as a player and that’s all you can ask for.”
Corrie is 5-feet-9-inches tall, but has played nearly every role on the court in her three seasons at the varsity level. She has brought the ball up the floor, been the primary ball handler and this season has worked more on her post game, because that is where the team needs her most.
The Falcons are set to play Heathwood Hall at 8 pm tonight in the quarterfinals of the SCISA Class 3A basketball tournament. Corrie is one of the main reasons Ben Lippen was able to win its first-round game Friday and advance to tonight’s game against the Highlanders.
“We ask Corrie to play almost everything because she has such a high basketball IQ,” Cummings said. “She has guard skills but she’s been learning to acquire some post skills. Anytime we get a smaller player guarding her, we will try and isolate her in the post. She’s been playing for a long time, and her mother was her coach for a number of years coming up playing church ball. You can’t have a better coach than Martha Parker-Hester.”