Duke, UNC unite to raise money for Teen Cancer America

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It's not too often that Triangle hoops fans get to see Duke and UNC guys actually play together. (WTVD)

It's not too often that Triangle hoops fans get to see Duke and UNC actually play together.

The rivalry, though, was temporarily abandoned for a good cause, as the players joined together for Nolan Smith's first ever Hoop-A-Thon to raise awareness for Teen Cancer America.

"It's cool," Smith said. "I mean even taking pictures, Brice (made) some jokes. Grayson (made) some jokes. We all (made) jokes about it like, 'Oh don't get used to these pictures. Get them in now.' But it's funny, and it's cool because at least we all know that when it comes to something bigger than basketball, we can all come together."

During his playing days at Duke, Smith made hospital visits as a college athlete and noticed that when it came to cancer, teens often when unnoticed in terms of hospital space.

With his this event, he hopes to change that dilemma.

"From my many visits to the hospital, I've made a lot of friends, and I text with a lot of them," Smith said. "(These teens) just tell me, 'We really do need our own space. This will help us get through our depression and help us get through our battles that we're going through.'"

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Jack Guarino experienced that problem firsthand when he was diagnosed with brain cancer as a teen. The survivor and Teen Cancer America ambassador said efforts like Smith's are important when raising awareness for the problem at hand.

"We talk about pediatrics all the time, and we talk about adult cancer because that's where the money is, but we forget about this age group that really needs it the most," Guarino said. "It's hard being a teenager, and there's a lot of difficulties associated with being a teenager and having cancer."

"Building these units, like Nolan wants to do at Duke, that specialize in teenage and young adult cancer is really what the goal is," Guarino said. "If we can start getting those units across the country...We have a couple of them, but we need more- that would be awesome."

Nolan assembled a roster chalked full of special guests to aid in his efforts.

Current Duke players Grayson Allen and Justin Robinson took part in the event, and for the Tar Heels, national champion Nate Britt and his former teammate turned LA Clipper, Brice Johnson, were also on hand.

Former NBA player Quincy Miller also helped out, along with newly-minted Boston Celtics rookie, Jayson Tatum

Fresh off of wrapping up his NBA Summer League debut, this was Tatum's his first trip back to Durham since being drafted third overall in this year's NBA Draft.

For the former Duke star, the chance to give back to his college community was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

"We're able to do so much more than just play basketball," Tatum said. "We're able to use our stage and our status for good things like this, and Nolan's doing a great job."

Playing alongside NBA players was an added bonus of the event, and for many teen cancer survivors, these stars often provide that brief moment of joy they need the most.

"When you're going through the treatment and when you're going through this whole ordeal, it's hard to really focus on the stuff you used to do," Guarino said. "It's a nice reminder and just a break from that medicine. What these athletes can provide is really awesome."

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