After losing both legs, Cox relies on his faith
Published 4:46 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2023
BY RUSS BROWN
Former University of Louisville basketball All-American Wesley Cox has had to overcome a lot of challenges and obstacles in his life, but none remotely as serious as the one he is facing now.
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Cox, 66, is dealing with the amputation of both legs just below the knee due to infection from diabetes and poor circulation. He lost the first leg about a year ago, then the second one two months ago. He is approaching it the same way he attacked adversity from the time he arrived on the U of L campus as a freshman from Male High School after leading the Bulldogs to a state championship in 1971 and being named Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball in 1973.
He says he has always followed the advice his father gave him as a youth to not give up, no matter what.
“I didn’t let asthma deter me. You keep going. Until your heart stops beating, you keep going. You can’t find no excuses. So that’s what I have always done.”
Indeed, that’s exactly what he did at UofL, where he struggled with exercise-induced asthma his entire career as a four-year starter, and while playing out of position as a center at 6-foot-5, going against bigger and stronger players nearly every game. A classic example of Cox’s determination and toughness was on exhibit in an NCAA semifinal against UCLA in San Diego as a sophomore in 1975 when he essentially played on one leg because of a pulled hamstring and still led all rebounders with 16 and also scored 14 points. Former Marquette coach Al McGuire once called him “Superman.”
Now Cox confined to a wheelchair and his health problems also require dialysis.
Asked during a news conference at U of L Thursday if he ever asked himself, “Why me?” he replied:
“No sir, I didn’t, because that’s a part of being defeated. I’ll learn to accept what has happened to me. It is slowing me down but it’s not going to stop me. It’s just one of those things where you have to make adjustments.”
Cox said he has relied on former teammates, friends in Louisville and family for support, but most of all he leans on his faith. He is a Sunday school teacher at Highland Park Missionary Baptist Church, where his brother Byron is a pastor.
“God, I have to tell you, that’s my only source,” Cox said. “Because my brother, he keeps me straight. A lot of people in my family keep me straight. And it’s just something that you got to do. I just can’t wake up and say, ‘Woe is me.’ I was never that type of person. I say, ‘Okay, what do I have to do?’ And they told me what I needed to do. And I’m doing it; doing it slowly, but I’m doing it.”
Cox will require help to reach his hope of walking again. He needs financial assistance to be able to pay for prosthetics, dialysis and rehabilitation above what isn’t covered by insurance. A GoFundMe page has been established and in three days had raised more than $5,000 (gofund.me/0f6ca7d0).
“I’m grateful,” Cox said. “I mean, they don’t have to, but I am grateful. I wish I could thank everybody personally. I might not know everybody but it’s a blessing to know that you’re in a community that really cares about you. I’ve talked to guys who played ball at other schools and they never went back for nothing. But here is like a big family.”
With 1,578 points and 832 rebounds, Cox still ranks in the top 20 in career totals with the Cardinals and was inducted into the U of L Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991. He also had 275 career assists (2.4 avg.), 135 blocks and over 180 steals while helping U of L to a combined 90-25 record that included two Missouri Valley Conference championships and one Metro Conference title. He earned All-America honors as a senior in 1976-77.
After his U of L career, he was selected in the first round of the NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors, but his asthma limited his NBA playing time to two years. After that, he returned to Louisville and worked as a supervisor for Metro Parks and in the city’s economic development office while taking night classes to qualify for a city job in a legal support capacity.