In an unprecedented move, the board of directors of the United States Basketball Writers Association has unanimously agreed to honor Mount St. Joseph freshman Lauren Hill with a Pat Summitt Most Courageous award that is given annually to a women’s coach or player, normally during the Women’s Final Four.
But as it became recently widely known, Hill’s story is so compelling that because of the circumstances, it became imperative that USBWA honor Lauren immediately with the announcement and as soon as possible with the presentation.
A year ago the Lions’ 19-year-old freshman, whose school is located in Cincinnati and competes at the Division III level, was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, an inoperable brain tumor, and doctors gave her about two years to live in the best scenario.
This was learned about six weeks after she gave her commitment to attend the university.
She continued to play basketball through her senior year at Lawrenceburg High in the greater Cincinnati area while undergoing treatments for the cancer.
In early September, however, Hill, who is raising awareness to help others with the same condition, learned the tumor had grown larger and doctors gave her until December, at best, to live.
Hill has continued to be with the team and through an agreement with its opponent and an unprecedented exception from the NCAA, the Lions will host Hiram on Nov. 2, several weeks ahead of the scheduled Nov. 15 start date for the game and season.
Lauren told local station WKRC, “I never gave up for a second even when I got a terminal diagnosis; never thought about sitting back and not living life anymore.”
The plan is for Lauren, wearing her No. 22, to play a few minutes, to fulfill the one wish she has had since learning the news of her situation.
“I think it’s going to be a really, really big day,” Hill told the Jim Rome Show. “I’m still shell-shocked at how far this story is getting because I never would have expected it to reach this many people. I’m speechless right now.”
Dan Benjamin, the women’s basketball coach at Mount St. Joseph’s, told the local TV station, “She’s a special person. This girl is so strong, she’s dealing with death and all she’s thinking about is everyone else. Her team first her family first, and just to give her that one last wish would be incredible for our program and our players.”
On Friday it was announced that the game would be moved to the larger Xavier’s Cintas Center so more people could attend.
“When Lauren’s situation became known, it was obvious that she is the personification of who the award is named for and what it is all about,” said USBWA board member and women’s representative Mel Greenberg, alluding to the legendary former Tennessee coach, Pat Summitt, who revealed in August 2011 that she had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Summitt received the award in 2012 at the Women’s Final Four in Denver at which time it was named after her to be part of future honors for women’s winners being cited for courage.
“This is a rarity for anyone in the lower divisions to earn an honor from USBWA with the focus usually being on Division I individuals,” Greenberg said. “But to be fair this season, if viable Division I candidates surface, the plan is to still give out a Pat Summitt honor at the Women’s Final Four in Tampa next April.
“Ideally, we would like to present Lauren with her award on the weekend or day associated with the game, if possible, but discussions are being held with all parties to determine what setting is best and appropriate.”
Hill also said to WKRC, describing her passion for the game, “I love the roar of the crowd, the squeaking of the shoes. I can’t wait to be on this court and wearing No. 22.”