Del Valle soccer star & cancer survivor receives college scholarship to play wheelchair basketball

High school soccer star learning new sport

Janets Journey

EL PASO, Texas -    For Janet Rodriguez the word 'quit' isn't in her vocabulary.

   Even when a cancerous tumor was found inside her right leg and doctors told Rodriguez her leg would have to be amputated, Rodriguez took the news in stride.
   "My mom was crying," Rodriguez said. "And I told her that we had to keep going and that we can't give up."

   That was in 2018 during Rodriguez's senior year of high school. 

    Rodriguez was a star soccer player at Del Valle High School and was looking forward to playing in college, but her battle with cancer derailed that dream. 

     Now more than a year later Rodriguez is finally getting a chance to shine at the collegiate level, but it's not in soccer.

    Rodriguez received an athletic scholarship to play wheelchair basketball at the University of Texas at Arlington.

     Rodriguez admits she never liked basketball, but the sport is opening new doors.

       "I mean it's different because I'm not running and that's one thing I like to do," Rodriguez said. "But I mean if they gave me this opportunity to go to school, then that's why I took it."  
      UT-Arlington is one of just 11 schools in the country that offers scholarships for wheelchair basketball.

       Rodriguez isn't expecting to be perfect right away, and she's having a lot to learn.

       "What's the hardest thing to do? To control the chair and ball at the same time. That's pretty hard," Rodriguez said. "I don't like the chair, I never liked the chair, but if that's what's going to get me moving then I'll do it."

         Paul Lanciault works for Rodriguez's prosthetist, and like Rodriguez he too is an osteosarcoma survivor.

         One could say their meeting was fate because Lanciault happened to know the head wheelchair basketball coach at UT-Arlington.
         Lanciault told the coach about Rodriguez's story and put the two in touch.

         "It was just one of those things, right place, right time," Lanciault said. "I happened to know somebody and I kind of let them have their conversation and it sounds like things worked out for her."
         It's a path Rodriguez never thought she'd be on, but after everything she's been through, she's giving it her best shot.

        "It did hurt me a lot when I lost my leg because I had a lot to lose back then and now that I'm here, that I have my scholarship, I really don't mind it as long as I keep pushing myself and grinding to putting that ball in that basket," Rodriguez said.

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