Tony Marelle went to Peachtree Ridge for a day this school year, his junior year.

Then he made up his mind. As badly as he wanted to stay with the friends he grew up with and as much as he wanted to play for a promising young basketball team, he knew he wanted to change schools. So he withdrew from Peachtree Ridge after a day, not for any negative reason, only for the one major positive of his new school, Mount Pisgah Christian School in Alpharetta.

Now he gets to play point guard for his father Joe, Duluth's boys basketball coach from 1981 to 2004 and Mount Pisgah's new coach. Other than pee-wee baseball, he has never played for his dad.

"Growing up in Duluth, it's always been a dream of mine," Tony said of playing for his father. "As the time came to decide (about a transfer), I thought about that. As much as I didn't want to leave my friends, my dad's been through a lot the last couple of years. A chance like this

doesn't come up too often, so I had to take it."

The youngest of three Marelle children said his friends at Peachtree Ridge supported his decision. They understood there was a time when playing for his father was the least of his concerns.

Joe Marelle has spent the better part of the last seven years fighting for his life, first against non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and then against Leukemia. Given six months to live back in 1998, he beat the lymphoma but was hit with Leukemia, which was put in remission last year by a bone marrow transplant.

During the hard times, it wasn't certain that Joe would ever coach again. Or live.

"It went through my head that I might never get to play for him," Tony said. "In eighth grade, he was out of the hospital and in the hospital. Out of the hospital, in the hospital. It was the same thing in ninth grade. There were times when I wasn't even worried about not playing for him because he was in such bad shape. I was worried about other things."

As it turns out, Tony will join a pretty good team at Mt. Pisgah. Two 6-foot-11 transfers, Ralph Sampson III (son of the former NBA center of the same name) and German Mike Dejworek, have enrolled at the school, which has one more season of Georgia Independent School Association play before joining the Georgia High School Association in 2006-2007, Tony's senior year.

Joe Marelle said he left the decision to transfer entirely up to his son, but admits he was excited when he got the news.

"I'm going to be highly critical of him and I'll expect more out of him (than other kids)," he said. "On the other side, we'll get to spend a lot of time together and that's going to be great."

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com . His column appears on Thursdays.