(WTNH)–Whether it was high school or AAU, go to a game where Dan Upchurch was playing and you’d be sure to hear his father, Dan Sr., in the stands.
“He never missed my games that was one thing,” Dan Jr. said. “AAU, he would travel to Virginia, Florida, Vegas, he was always at the game yelling at every parent’s kids like they were his kids.”
Dan Sr. played basketball at Harding and was proud to see his son on the court. Danny Jr. was proud of his dad too.
“He was the man of the house, he taught me how to be strong, how to be yourself, and he was definetely a family man. The way he would treat my mom and my little brother and treat us it made me want to be a leader like him,” Danny Jr. said.
Before Danny Jr.’s senior season at Notre Dame of Fairfield, he had to be a leader. Not just of his team, but of his family too.
“We just came home from a game, a fall league game. Everything was good we were chilling at home on the couch, nothing was wrong. And out of nowhere he grabbed his chest and said he had a pain in his chest,” Danny Jr. said.
Dan Sr. had to be rushed to the hsopital, where doctors discovered he had torn artery. He was hospitalized for 30 days.
“It was tough. I went to the hospital every day after school, some days I wouldn’t go to school. I would try to be near him and be at his side.”
Then just before Danny Jr.’s birthday, his father died of heart complications on November 27 2012. He was 37.
“It was just tough. I had to comfort my mom at the same time because him and my mothers were partners I had a little brother that was one years old. I had to let him know that everything was going to be alright.”
And it would be. Danny Jr. says he didn’t want sympathy. He wanted to lead. He wanted to be strong.
“A lot of people tried to talk to me in school or talk to me, but I didn’t want to be comforted as much. I was more focused on wanting people to treat it like a normal thing more than anything. I stayed in the gym and kept working. I dedicated that season to him.”
He changed his number from 11 to 10, his dad’s old number. He went onto play Division 1 at Charleston Southern and is now at UNH, looking to lead there, too.
“Bringing me in I can lead the team and coach is looking at me to lead them.”
And his father would be proud.
“I know he’d want me to win and he’d be happy for me,” he said.