Good Hope's Nick Walling has everything a coach desires in a basketball player.

Despite being an under-sized post player at six-foot, Walling notches a double-double (points and rebounds) every night on the court.

"Nick is our best scorer and rebounder," said Good Hope coach Brandon Talley. "But he likes to be more of a role player. Nick doesn't want to be in the limelight. He is just one of those guys that shows up to work everyday."

In the classroom, Walling, the recipient of this year's Eli Thomas Award, possesses over a 3.7 grade point average and has been accepted into the University of Alabama at Huntsville's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering program on scholarship.

"Grades are the main thing you can do," said Walling. "I like UAH because they have one of the best engineering Co-op programs. I would like to design cars, but with Co-op, I will have an opportunity to see what fits me best."

While Walling is thriving on the basketball court and classroom, unknown to many, he suffers from a severe disease — multiple sclerosis or MS.

"MS can be different with each person that has it and almost everyone has custom symptoms," said Walling. "But it's not enough to stop me. I just have to make adjustments like taking naps or sleeping longer."

According to Walling, MS is an auto-immune disease that attacks defense cells and eats their coating. If not treated, it can short out nerves and cause paralysis. He takes a shot every other night to treat the disease.

People that have MS often get fatigued easily, but Walling won't let it get the best of him.

"People think it can weigh you down," Walling noted. "But all it does is make me go harder."

Walling received the unfortunate news of the disease in 2003 that almost ended his sports career forever.

"The doctor told me at first that I needed to pick one sport," Walling said. "But being sort of a rebel, I thought I could play them all. I went out for spring practice of football and made the team. But doing it and basketball was too much.

"So, I chose basketball because I thought I was better at it. But I loved playing football and participating in track like the high jump."

Walling admitted he may feel some affects following a basketball game, but never during.

"It's game time then," Walling said about his fatigue. "I just block everything out. But sometimes I do feel bad afterwards."

Talley noted Walling may be absent at practice from time to time, but it never keeps him down for long.

"Somedays, Nick will miss practice because he has to go to the hospital for three or four days," Talley added. "It may take him a week or so to get over it with the running and jumping. But he is able to overcome it every time."

Walling, one of the Raiders' captains, has his team prepped for Thursday's regional contest against second-ranked Lauderdale County.

"You have to be really excited anytime you got a shot at regionals or possibly the state tournament," Walling said. "We started off slow this season, but have picked it up lately. It's everything you could want in a senior season."

The key to this season for Good Hope has been the ability to pull out the close games late in the season, after dropping eight early contests by less than five points.

"Everyone on our team has talent, but we just needed to make adjustments to put everyone in position to use that talent," Walling added. "Now, everyone seems to be in the right spots and it's just clicking better."

While sports and school are a big part of Walling's life, he makes time for church, mission trips and other camps during the summer.

"I've gone to Rhode Island twice for Teen Advantage Weekend," Walling said. "It's a place where kids with MS get to go and chill out with other kids with the same disease. You get to see that someone else is out there like you. We do kayaking and other fun stuff like that."

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