What if . . .





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What If ... N.C. State's miracle run in the 1983 NCAA tournament had not happened?

by Jacob Feldman

Imagine Dereck Whittenburg’s top-of-the-key heave hitting the rim, even a little, throwing everything off. Say Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon remains in defensive position, or maybe Pepperdine’s Dane Suttle, two weeks earlier in the tourney opener, makes his two free throws to beat the Wolfpack, and that famously inadvertent alley-oop never even happens.

Whichever way you draw it up, coach Jim Valvano never scrambles around looking for a hug and finding national admiration. Would he then have been known more for the whiffs of scandal that punctuated his career? Would he even have spoken at the 1993 ESPYs? Would he have become the face of a $170 million cancer-research foundation?

You don’t need to lecture UNC assistant professor Chad Pecot on the power of coincidence. His path to medicine started with his own cancer diagnosis, and his time as a researcher stemmed from a chance encounter with the doc who discovered the cure for his disease. Which is where the V Foundation came in, offering Pecot his first grant in 2014. “Without that,” Pecot says, “I would have fizzled out.” Pecot is now in year four of running a research lab at Chapel Hill.

And what of that research, partly funded by the V Foundation? By some serendipity it led to Pecot’s finding a drug that he believes will prevent certain kinds of cancer from metastasizing—which could further amplify the power of One Shining What-if.