High School Sports

As he fights diabetes and awaits kidney transplant, West Charlotte alum coaches, gives back

Charlotte ACES travel basketball coach and founder Kevin Ligon was recently added to the kidney transplant list at Wake Forest. He plans to coach in this weekend’s Queen City Classic showcase event in Charlotte.
Charlotte ACES travel basketball coach and founder Kevin Ligon was recently added to the kidney transplant list at Wake Forest. He plans to coach in this weekend’s Queen City Classic showcase event in Charlotte.

For 26 years, Kevin Ligon has coached high school travel basketball in the summer. Last season, was a little different.

Ligon’s kidney began failing three years ago after three decades with diabetes. He started dialysis treatment but was determined to continue coaching. He traveled with a 100-pound dialysis machine, which he used for eight hours each night. This in addition to an insulin pump, a pager-sized device that sits on his waistline to deliver medicine to control his diabetes.

But Ligon, 50, a West Charlotte High graduate, never considered not coaching last year -- or now. He’ll coach in this weekend’s Queen City Classic Tournament. The tournament, for 14-under to 17-under teams, will bring college recruits to high school gyms in Charlotte. Ligon’s team, the Charlotte ACES, will play Friday at 7:40 p.m. at Olympic High. The ACES will play the Upward (SC) Stars.

“I feel OK,” Ligon said. “Do I wish I didn’t have to deal with it? Of course. But I’m thankful this is a problem I can overcome and deal with. If this was a terminal illness, where I couldn’t be here for my family, well, that’s different.”

For the past eight years, Ligon has been an intervention specialist for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, working with students with behavioral and academic challenges. For the past two, he’s been on a kidney transplant waiting list in Charlotte. He spent Thursday at Wake Forest University, beginning the process for getting on a list in Winston-Salem. The hope is for a living donor. Colleen Sheehan, a transplant coordinator at Wake Forest, said living donor kidneys last 15-20 years, versus eight to 12 for those taken from deceased donors.

But while he waits, Ligon plans to coach. He said he’s coached nearly 400 players, including future NBA players Jeff McInnis and Jerry Stackhouse and former Duke star Jeff Capel. Ligon said about three out of four have earned college scholarships and that he often sees many of them.

“I had a coach help me when I was little,” Ligon said. “He sent me to basketball camps, paid for it and changed my trajectory. I grew up on Beatties Ford Road without a father and had a lot of opportunities for mischief and to get into trouble.

“But I saw what college was like. I wanted to go. My coach made a difference in my life and I said if I had the opportunity to coach and give back I would, because someone did it for me. I’m living proof that it can change your world.”

Want To Help

Contact Living Donor Transplant Coordinator Colleen Sheehan via 336-713-5675 or csheeha@wakehealth.edu

Queen City Classic Information

The Queen City Classic will bring 76 travel high school basketball teams and dozens of college prospects to Charlotte this weekend. There are multiple age groups, but the feature division is the 17-under elite, mainly rising seniors. Below is the elite 17U schedule. A complete schedule is at charlotteobserver.com/sports/high-school

Admission is $5 Friday and $10 Saturday and Sunday. A weekend pass is also available for $20. There is free admission for children 5 and under.

Friday at Olympic High: PSB Select vs. Carolina Wolves, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday at Olympic High: Upward Stars Southeast vs. Charlotte Nets Morrow Elite, 8 am.; Upward Stars Southeast vs. Karolina Khaos, 10:20 a.m.; Charlotte Nets Morrow Elite vs. Flight 22 Elite, 10:20 a.m.; Upward Stars Southeast vs. Flight 22 Elite, 12:40 p.m.; Karolina Khaos vs. Charlotte Nets Morrow Elite, 1:50 p.m.; Team Charlotte vs. Carolina Wolves, 3 p.m.; Team United EYBL vs. PSB Select Elite, 3 p.m.; Team United EYBL vs. Team Charlotte, 5:20 p.m.; PSB Select Elite vs. Team Charlotte, 7:40; Team United EYBL vs. Carolina Wolves, 7:40 p.m.


Team Charlotte: Devon Dotson, 6-1, 2018; Aaron Wiggins, 6-6, 2018; Ian Steere, 6-8, 2018

Team United: Patrick Williams, 6-7, 2019; Flo Thamba, 6-11, 2018

Karolina Khaos: Sharone Wright, 6-6, 2018

Upward Stars: Alex Caldwell, 5-10, 2018; Malcolm Wilson, 6-11, 2019

Atlanta All Stars: Gabe Bryant, 6-8, 2018

Queen City Thunder: Adafe Price, 6-7, 2018

Carolina Wolves; Jaylen Alston, 6-4, 2018; Nate Springs, 6-11, 2018

Flight 22: John Michael Wright, 6-1, 2019; Immanuel Izbunador, 6-9, 2019; Kenny Dye, 6-0, 2018

PSB Elite: Blake Preston, 6-9, 2018; JC Tharrington, 6-1, 2019