Rochester College coach Klint Pleasant, right, along with Matt and Cathryne Cansler, left, watch as 5-year-old Wesley Cansler signs his letter of intent to become the newest member of the Warriors basketball team.

Rochester College coach Klint Pleasant, right, along with Matt and Cathryne Cansler, left, watch as 5-year-old Wesley Cansler signs his letter of intent to become the newest member of the Warriors basketball team.

Photo provided by Rochester College


Wesley Cansler signs with Rochester College men’s basketball

By: Jacob Herbert | C&G Newspapers | Published September 25, 2018

 Rochester College senior guard Armand Cartwright passes a basketball around with 5-year-old Wesley Cansler before the Sept. 18 ceremony. Cartwright said he’s excited to have Wesley on the team and that the newest teammate is an inspiration to them all.

Rochester College senior guard Armand Cartwright passes a basketball around with 5-year-old Wesley Cansler before the Sept. 18 ceremony. Cartwright said he’s excited to have Wesley on the team and that the newest teammate is an inspiration to them all.

Photo provided by Rochester College

ROCHESTER HILLS — Inside an athletic complex packed with family, friends, coaches, media members and players, 5-year-old Wesley Cansler, of Hazel Park, put pen to paper Sept. 18, signing his letter of intent and officially becoming the newest member of the Rochester College men’s basketball team. 

By far the youngest member of the team, Wesley became a Warrior through a partnership between the college and Team IMPACT, a nonprofit headquartered in Boston that matches children facing serious or chronic illnesses with local teams. Since 2011, Team IMPACT has matched nearly 1,600 children with more than 500 colleges and universities in 48 states.

Since birth, Wesley has been battling a rare genetic disorder called WAGR syndrome. According to his mother, Cathryne Cansler, babies born with WAGR syndrome often have eye problems, are at high risk for developing certain types of cancer and have a range of developmental delays. 

“As a family, we have fought for him and with him every step of the way,” Cansler said. “From appointments to surgeries and even chemotherapy, we have been in his corner rooting him on. We are honored to now say we have Rochester College in our corner as Wesley becomes a Warrior. We hope that this experience will leave as much of an everlasting impression on you as we hope it will us.”

Wesley didn’t crawl until he was 15 months old. He was diagnosed with cancer at 17 months and didn’t walk until 25 months. He’s been through 19 rounds of chemotherapy.

You would not have known any of this walking through the doors of Garth Pleasant Arena. Wesley was full of life, smiling, cheering and clapping throughout the night. He even took some time to pass a basketball around with his new teammates. 

“He’s always excited and happy, which is motivation for us to see that every morning,” Bloomfield Hills High graduate and Warriors guard Armand Cartwright said.

Cartwright, along with teammates Cannon Campbell, Kash Blackwell, Moses Toriola and Cap Wilson, were tasked with being ambassadors for the college and introducing Wesley and his family to the program.

“They came here for the first official meeting back in the beginning of the summer,” Campbell said. “He came here with his parents and his brother. It was kind of interesting at first because it’s something completely new. He hasn’t been around us; we haven’t been around him. Before long, he was running around and having a blast. So that was really cool.”

It didn’t take much time for Wesley and the team to become the best of friends. The team spent Wesley’s fifth birthday with him at his house, enjoying cupcakes, playing cornhole and listening to Taylor Swift. All of which are favorites of the newest Warrior. 

From there, the relationship grew into what it is today. Wesley has an open invitation to the athletic facilities anytime he wants. He’s invited to attend every practice and team dinner. He even has his own locker and a seat on the Warriors bench.

“Whenever we’re here, he’s welcome.” coach Klint Pleasant said.

Pleasant, whose father coached the Warriors for 40 years prior to him taking the job, said this relationship is about much more than basketball, and he believes the relationship with Wesley should have a huge impact on his players.

“This is about relationships and truly learning life lessons,” he said. “To be able to do something like this and for them to be able to interact with Wesley and have Wesley interact with us, it’s what we’re all about, and it speaks to the mission of our school. We’re a private Christian school, and so these values and virtues are important to us.”

All parties involved in the relationship say they’re excited for what the upcoming season will bring and the experiences that Wesley and the team will share. Cansler agreed, but added an important thing to consider as things progress.

“With his condition being so rare, this is also helping spread awareness and letting these young men and women know more about this and people like him,” she said, adding that there are less than 500 cases of WAGR syndrome in the world.

To learn more about WAGR syndrome, visit wagr.org.