Utah Jazz: Trainer Brian Zettler raising money to support fight against leukemia and lymphoma
Oakland, Calif. • On home game days, Brian Zettler is among the first people at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz don't shoot around until 10 a.m., but Zettler is usually there by 8 a.m.
The Jazz's assistant athletic trainer prepares for the immense crush of the day, which for the Texas native includes giving players treatment and serving as the team's conduit to the visiting team.
According to Marvin Williams, Zettler always makes "sure nobody needs anything." And that, for the last two months, has transcended basketball.
Zettler is deep in a 10-week fundraising drive for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Man & Woman of the Year competition.
"It's been a challenge doing it while we're in the playoff crunch," he said, "trying to get in that eighth spot. Instead of on the off-time spending time with your kids or doing something like that, I find myself at the computer or doing something trying to reach out to people to donate."
For Zettler, this is all personal.
Leukemia killed his grandfather, Red Mills, while Zettler was in college. His 22-year-old niece, Shadoh Campbell, is battling Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Campbell, who lives in Texas, is a college student and single mother, and Zettler said fundraising for her cause is how he can help out amid the grind of the NBA season.
"It's the only way I can try to help her out from here," he said. "From long distance. She's very grateful, she's very supportive on my Facebook page where I list everything. She's very supportive of that."
Zettler won't disclose his fundraising goal, but says it's "lofty." A career in the NBA doesn't hurt there.
Last month at Madison Square Garden, Jason Kidd quietly ducked into the Utah Jazz locker room and dropped off an autographed pair of basketball sneakers. Jimmer Fredette and Damian Lillard left behind signed jerseys.
Zettler has solicited donations for the last two weeks, all in a buildup to his "Rock Em! Sock Em!" event Thursday at the Jazz's practice facility, where Zettler is selling an opportunity to meet Jazz players and bid on memorabilia in a silent auction.
For a price, fans can meet Jeremy Evans and have photos taken with the former Slam Dunk champion and his trophy.
Zettler is a calming figure for the Jazz. He reliably watches game from the end of the bench, kneeling on the floor. His dark beard is always neatly trimmed, and when he speaks, it is with a light Texas drawl that quavers only when he begins to talk about cancer and the people it has touched.
He asks for a moment to collect himself when he talks about the donations that he's received, the ones that include a note that says, "This is for my Mom," or, "This is for my dad."
Fundraising has been work, no doubt, but, Zettler says, "It's very well worth it."
P What • Rock Em! Sock Em! fundraiser for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
Where • Zions Bank Basketball Center, 1414 S. 500 West
When • Thursday, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
• For more info, visit Brian Zettler's online fundraising page at http://bit.ly/Y7WJ2O