Andrew Moritz was an inspiration to teammates and fans

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Two lines in his 1999-2000 Washington men’s basketball biography begin to tell the story of Andrew Moritz, the former walk-on who scored more fans than points during a four-year career.

When asked the best advice he’d ever been given, he said: “Laughter cures a lot of pain.”

And asked what advice he’d give to kids, he replied: “Don’t take anything for granted.”

Moritz, who died Saturday night in Seattle after a three-year bout with cancer, was the kind of person who smiled the biggest and laughed the loudest no matter what adversity he faced on and off the basketball court. He was 33.

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Rarely was he the best player on his team. At Franklin High, that distinction went to future NBA star Jason Terry. At the UW, Todd MacCulloch, another future NBA player, was the team leader.

And yet, Moritz inspired both of them to greatness.

MacCulloch, who led the Huskies during their run to the 1998 and 1999 NCAA tournaments, called him the “bravest teammate I ever had.”

Moritz appeared in just 34 games in four years and earned a scholarship his final season at Washington. He graduated in 2000 with degrees in economics and sociology.

Moritz moved to St. Louis where he became an executive with U.S. Bank and “was constantly getting award after award for his leadership,” according to his father, Glen Moritz.

The father sat with his son in Seattle on Dec. 27, 2008, the day he learned he had cancer.

Moritz complained of stomach pain and his father took him to the hospital.

“After about five hours of tests, this young doctor came back and I could not believe his lack of bedside manners,” Glen said. “He said we can’t find much else wrong except for a few cancerous spots. That was not the news you were hoping for. And it began from there.”

Diagnosed with desmoplastic small round cell tumor, an aggressive and rare soft tissue cancer, Andrew Moritz relentlessly sought a cure for the incurable disease.

Moritz, who was born on April 11, 1978, leaned on his mother Marilynn, a breast cancer survivor, his best friend Daniel Shapiro, who beat throat cancer, and four younger sisters, Martha, Rachel, Sarah and Elizabeth, who started a journal, yearofthecomeback.blogspot.com, which chronicled his treatment.

On the blog Andrew wrote: “I am going to beat this. There is no question in my mind. We are going to kick this thing in its butt and be an encouragement and example to people that anything is possible in the world through positive energy, tremendous support and the power of prayer.”

After feeling weak, Moritz checked into the hospital on Nov. 18. The family spent Thanksgiving in his hospital room. He sipped on sparking apple cider, watched football and continued to laugh and talk about a cure when it became clear his time was short.

“He didn’t think about dying for one second,” Shapiro said. “Dying was never an option for him. Even when we knew it was pretty inevitable and he was in ICU and the doctors told us (on Nov. 20) we’d lose him, his attitude was to recover.

“He asked us to fight with him to the very end, so any time they gave us a time frame we just kind of threw it out the window.”

Former Washington assistant coach Eric Hughes and Jason Hamilton, a UW radio analyst, visited him last week. Saturday afternoon, former UW players Chris Walcott, Chris Thompson and MacCulloch visited Moritz one last time.

“The Andrew I’ll remember is somebody who was really dedicated,” Hamilton said. “From a basketball standpoint, he wasn’t always the best player on the floor, but he was smart and he was going to give you 100 percent effort all the time. That translated not just on the floor, but off the floor to the kind of person that he was when he got in the business world and the kind of person that took that determination and dedication to his fight with cancer. That’s probably why he lived as long as he did.

“It goes back to that Jimmy (Valvano) thing. Don’t ever give up. I think Andrew carried that same spirit.”

Shapiro held Moritz’s hand when he died at 10:10 p.m. Saturday.

“The last thing he heard me say was you taught me the meaning of strength,” Shapiro said. “You taught me how to be strong.”

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @percyallen.