Professional basketball player enjoys living in Mingo Junction

HANGING WITH FRIENDS — Derrick Colter, standing, fifth from the left, enjoys pick-up basketball with his friends at the YMCA at St. John Arena in Steubenville. Colter, a resident of Mingo Junction, plays at noon every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, before traveling to Europe. He is a professional basketball player with the Geneva Lions in Switzerland and departed Saturday for the upcoming season. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

STEUBENVILLE — During Derrick Colter’s playing days with the Duquesne basketball team, he would always see Alisha Ensell in the hallway, practicing with her dance team.

They were already friends, but he never had the courage to ask the big question.

“I would always talk to her but never asked her out. Finally in senior year, I asked her out,” he said.

Colter and Ensell, the daughter of Paul and Lisa, later wed on June 26 and moved to Mingo Junction, Ensell’s hometown. Colter, originally from Forestville, Md., had no problem moving to Mingo because he’s a professional basketball player, and it doesn’t matter where he lives.

“It’s cool. It’s a very small area. The people are quiet, and it’s very peaceful,” he said.

Colter, 25, only spends a few months before traveling to Europe to play the sport he loves. He is a member of the Geneva Lions in Switzerland and left Saturday for training camp, one month before the season begins. This is his second year with the Lions and fourth in professional basketball overall (one year in France and the other with Ukraine).

Before Colter left with his wife (who is traveling with him for the whole season for the first time), he played at the YMCA at St. John Arena with friends he’s met since living in Mingo. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at noon, Colter plays with anywhere from 10-15 other guys.

His journey to YMCA began with word of mouth and meeting new faces. It also helps that his wife works at Trinity West.

“They’re really nice guys. You never know who you’re going to meet,” Colter said.

Years before he trains in the offseason with Nick Balakos, Bill DiPiero and his other friends, Colter was a standout player with the Dukes. He is seventh in school history with 1,695 points and third with 526 assists. He also is the only men’s basketball player in Duquesne history to start every game for all four years — 125 in a row.

His streak nearly came to a screeching halt before entering his junior year, but he didn’t let cancer kill his dreams.

“At the end of my second year, I noticed I had a bump on my neck,” Colter said. “When you have a bump, you think somebody hit and it bruised, so I didn’t worry about. I put some ice on it and didn’t think anything of it. About a month or two later, it was still there. It was a big knot, and I was trying to figure out what it was. I had to get it checked out because it might be something else. I went to the doctor, they cut it open to see what it was and they told me it was a tumor. I did not know that while I was playing. It came out of nowhere.”

Colter was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. He went to UPMC for radiation treatments for 30 consecutive days in May 2014. Some days he felt fine, but not so much with the others.

“I had a great doctor. They have some of the best doctors there,” he said. “They burned my neck every day so it doesn’t spread. Not a lot of pain, but I kept getting tired. Some days I would sleep all day. It just drains you. Some days I felt good and wanting to play, but some days I just wanted to sleep.

Colter has been cancer free since the summer of 2014, beginning right before the upcoming basketball season.

As if he wasn’t already, cancer just made Colter stronger and appreciate life. Whether it’s playing in Switzerland at the professional level, 125 consecutive games at the collegiate level or just hanging out with his new friends in Steubenville, Colter lives his life to the fullest.

For him, that’s playing basketball at any level. His motto is, “No excuses, just go get it.”

“I thank God every day for waking up, dressing and doing what I love to do,” he said. “I love playing basketball. It made me stronger. Now I don’t have anything to worry about.”