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Midway through the boys basketball season, a new name kept popping up in Chambersburg's boxscores.

In his first varsity appearance, the Trojans' 12th game of the season, Cade Whitfield went 4 of 5 from the field and was second in scoring with eight points. Three nights later, he followed it up with a 16-point performance in a win over Mifflin County.

Fast forward four more days, and Whitfield was a big contributor with eight points and eight rebounds in a narrow defeat of State College.

The sophomore didn't even make it to varsity tryouts.

The Sunday before the start of tryouts, Whitfield was experiencing flu-like symptoms and was quickly rushed to the hospital. Numerous spinal taps were performed, and the doctors remained unsure.

"I didn't know what was going on, and they didn't know what was going on either," Whitfield said. "On the second day at the hospital, they found out I had meningitis. I didn't really know what it was, and they wouldn't tell me too much, either, because they didn't want me to be scared."

Whitfield finally resorted to his cell phone. According to MayoClinic.org, the first site recommended in a Google search, "meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain and spinal cord."

Some symptoms included headaches and a stiff neck, both of which were especially debilitating for Whitfield.

"He had a really bad headache all the time, and he couldn't stand the light," said Jenny Whitfield, Cade's mother. "If he turned his head one way or the other, even a little bit, his neck hurt."

Cade was in the hospital for a week, and although he didn't have to spend any time in ICU, both he and his family knew just how serious the situation really was.

"It's just a fluke thing; nothing caused it necessarily, but really, it's a deadly thing," Jenny said. "He had his own room; we all had to be in gowns to see him. It's very contagious, so we had to be very careful. Visitors had to have masks and gloves to go in."

Cade had experienced another medical issue earlier in his life, so he could draw on that for strength. When he was in sixth grade, his appendix burst, which was another life-threatening condition.

"The appendix was probably harder because it was early on in my life," Cade said. "I was really struggling, and I had no idea how things would turn out. I knew because I had come back from that and starting playing in a couple months, nothing was going to stop me."

Meningitis definitely didn't.

"It was really hard when I first came back, though," Whitfield said. "I was really tired within about 10 minutes at my first practice. I was so dehydrated, and I still had to get in better condition. I just kept practicing with the JV team, though, going as hard as I could."

But Whitfield didn't want to be on the JV team.

"He was extremely upset," Chambersburg coach Shawn Shreffler said. "He had his goals set extremely high, and he wanted to make the varsity team. Even though he got healthy and was able to make the JV team, there was still a big part of him that wanted to be playing varsity."

Whitfield had a strong support system, though. In addition to his mother and father, Shawn, Whitfield felt an outpouring of support from his teammates and friends.

"I remember walking into that first practice (he missed the first two weeks of practices), and I almost cried because there were so many people there in a line, waiting to see me and ask me how I'm doing," Whitfield said. "People that didn't even make the team stayed to talk to me. Everyone was there for me, top to bottom."

Including Shreffler.

The two have had a relationship since Whitfield was a youngster. Shreffler coached him on a youth basketball team and a youth baseball team and also had him as a student in elementary school.

Shreffler gave Whitfield the opportunity to dress for the varsity squad shortly after the Franklin County Tip-Off Tournament, but on Jan. 16, an opportunity arose in a game against the Huskies.

"I had a pretty good idea of what he's capable of, and you started to see glimpses of those things in practice," Shreffler said. "When we went to Mifflin County, Boaz (Pogue) was away on a recruiting trip, so the door opened for Cade to step in and get some good time. That was kind of his coming out.

"He had a great game that night for us, and he was really being himself, putting himself in the right spots on the floor, taking advantage of his teammates and setting himself up for things. From that moment, he just took off and solidified his role in the lineup."

Whitfield played the final 11 games of the season, averaging nearly six points per game. And as a sophomore, who clearly possesses the ability to overcome adversity, Whitfield still has those same high goals.

"I think I played pretty well for us there late," Whitfield said. "Our other two sophomores, ByShawn (Mincie) and Cole (Christian), they played really great. There's definitely room for improvement for me, and that's what I'm going to focus on this offseason. We'll be juniors next year and try to take this team even farther."

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