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Garfield, Windham communities honor Max May on special, emotional night

Garfield, Windham communities honor Max May on special, emotional night


Garfield senior Max May (20) goes up for a layup during the first quarter of Friday’s game in Garrettsville. May scored the team’s first two points.
Tom Nader/Portage Sports

By Tom Nader

Publisher and Editor


It was always clear that Friday was about more than just a game.

Whether he wanted the spotlight or not, the night belonged to Garfield senior Max May.

Looking around Garfield High School’s near-capacity gymnasium quickly proved that.

The bleachers were filled with fans from both communities sitting shoulder to shoulder. Everyone wearing black “WE PLAY FOR MAX” shirts.

A sign of support for May, who was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor two years ago behind his right eye.

Multiple surgeries and chemotherapy have never kept him from playing three sports for the G-Men. He has long been a source of inspiration for his teammates and the community.

And for someone who repeatedly has refused special treatment, he had no choice but to celebrate himself like everyone else on Friday night.

May, who will be limited in his opportunity to play this season as he continues his courageous battle, was inserted into the starting lineup on Friday.

Garfield senior Max May exchanges a special moment with head coach Andy Olesky after May scored the first two points of the game for the G-Men on Friday. Tom Nader/Portage Sports

After the Bombers won the jump ball and scored on a layup by Carlos Bruton, the G-Men came down to the other side of the court and ran a play to free up May, who was positioned in the left corner.

May curled off a cross screen and Aidan Hill delivered a bounce bass to him on the right block that May controlled and put up with his right hand for Garfield’s first two points of the game.

The game was paused and May received a standing ovation from everyone in the gymnasium.

It was an emotional moment on an emotional night.

“At the end of the day, basketball is just a game and there are things in our lives that are bigger than basketball,” Garfield head coach Andy Olesky said. “Max is a special kid and I have said for a long time that I think he is the toughest kid in our school, and I still believe that.”

Those who know May closely, know that the spotlight is not something he ever seeks. Friday’s moment obviously put him directly into it and though he was reluctant at first, Garfield varsity assistant Matt Hill helped offer Max some perspective on the overall meaning of the night and two points to start the game.

“Max just loves to compete. He loves basketball,” Hill said. “He wasn’t sure about starting the game with the layup, because he didn’t want to take the spotlight away from the team. That just shows you what kind of person Max is. Ultimately, though, we wanted to make sure that Max knew that the two points was not about the importance of seeing it in the scorebook, but more that it was symbolic of what he has endured, how he has persevered and all of the people he has inspired. It may just be a layup for two points, but really it is a celebration of Max.”

Hill sparked the idea through a conversation with Olesky a few weeks back and what was originally a modest idea blossomed into an outpouring of support for May and his family.

The original plan was to have shirts printed off to be sold, with the proceeds going to the May family.

However, that plan quickly got shifted as the list of sponsors continued to grow and grow.

The shirts were produced at less than cost and eventually were gifted out for free.

All 861 of them. All produced by Amy Crawford at Business Works in Garrettsville. She kept ordering shirts and kept printing them, basically turning her business’ attention directly to this project.

In total, 35 businesses stepped forward as sponsors.

Olesky, who has coached May for four years now, said that he got emotional a couple of days ago when May said, “I feel like I deserve this. I’ve been through a lot.”

“He was absolutely right,” Olesky said.

May’s comment fell outside of his normal team-first attitude, which initially caught Olesky off guard, but also brought a smile to Olesky because he knew it to be true.

“Even before he was diagnosed, he was one of the most team-first players we had in our program,” Olesky said. “After he was diagnosed, it was still always about the team first. He never wanted any attention. He has kept such an inspiring outlook and everyone has always been behind Max. Just look around tonight and you see just a part of that.”


  1. PaPa Tom December 3, 2022

    Thanks for sharing this young man’s journey son. He shows how strong and courageous one can be. I am so happy he has a supportive community.

  2. George Belden December 3, 2022

    The true spirit of the night is enhanced by Max taking the pass from Aidan Hill, who is the grandson of Windham’s legendary coach Marty Hill, whose son Matt, who played for Windham, stood on the Garfield sideline coaching Max. It is indeed a small world that came together to celebrate this player’s courage.


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