Norm Stewart still fighting to end cancer

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COLUMBIA - Twenty-five years after Norm Stewart won his fight against cancer, he's still not finished fighting.

Last weekend, Columbia College hosted the seventh annual Norm Stewart Classic, which is an early-season showcase for high school basketball teams around Missouri.

The proceeds from the event benefit Coaches vs. Cancer and the American Cancer Society.

"That's what it's all about. Everybody gets involved, and it's bringing people's awareness to the American Cancer Society," Stewart said.

Stewart's old friend and MU teammate Gary Filbert had the idea for the event, but Filbert needed someone with notoriety to help the tournament grow.

That's when the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Famer got involved.

"It was a no brainer for me," Stewart said. "My mother died from cancer, and of course I'm a cancer survivor. It really was that easy to say, 'Well I'll help out and see what I can do.'"

Filbert passed away in 2011 after his own fight with brain cancer, but the tradition he started is still going.

"We went from eight teams, to now we have 30, plus all of the junior high teams. It's grown. We're on ESPN 3 now, and it's just going to continue," Stewart said.

Organizers of the event said Stewart deserves much of the credit for the growth of the event.

"Norm Stewart is an icon. I personally think the world of him, and I know a lot of people do. It has grown from his name," Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Executive Director Denny Hunt said.

The former MU head coach is considered the father of Coaches vs. Cancer, which evolved from the "Three-Point Program" Stewart started at MU after his cancer diagnosis.

"It's really pretty easy. You do what you can do. I've been able to some things, but other coaches are doing even more and that's the whole idea," Stewart said. "Do what you can do, everybody can help out, and we'll get it solved."

Since then, Coaches vs. Cancer has raised more than $87 million for the American Cancer Society.