NCAA permits school to move up opener, allows player battling inoperable tumor to play

Lauren Hill dreams of playing in a college basketball game.

Youtube via Sporting News

A college basketball player with an inoperable brain tumor who has been told she has weeks left to live will get her dying wish, thanks in part to the NCAA, which allowed Mount St. Joseph’s University to reschedule its season opener to allow freshman forward Lauren Hill to play.

Hill, a standout at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) High School, originally committed to play for Mount St. Joseph’s — located about 30 minutes east of Lawrenceburg, in Cincinnati —€” on her 18th birthday, Oct. 1 of last year. Less than two months later, on Nov. 20, 2013, Hill was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a cancerous tumor in her brain stem with a survival rate of zero percent.

Doctors initially gave Hill a best-case estimate of two years to live, but after an MRI last month, Lauren learned that her tumor had grown and that she probably wouldn’t make it to the end of the year.

"I’m not scared of leaving, because I won’t be here," Hill told WKRC Local 12 in Cincinnati. "But the people I worry about are the people I’m leaving behind. . . . I never gave up for a second, even when they told me that I had a terminal diagnosis. I never for a second thought about sitting down and not living life anymore."

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The updated timeline was unfathomably bad news for Hill and her family —€” parents Brent and Lisa, brother Nate, a high school junior, and eighth grade sister Erin —” and to make matters worse, it also likely meant that Hill would never get the chance to accomplish her goal and take the court for Mount St. Joseph’s, whose schedule was set to open on Nov. 15, in a road game against Hiram College (across the state between Columbus and Youngstown).

"She’s a special person," Mount St. Joseph’s coach Dan Benjamin told WKRC. "This girl’s strong, she’s dealing with death and all she keeps doing is putting everybody else first. She’s not thinking selfish at all, she’s put her teammates first, she’s put her family first, and just to give her that one last wish would be incredible for our program and our players."

Fortunately, in a bit of good news emerging out of all the bad, Hiram agreed to reschedule the game to play at Mount St. Joseph’s on Nov. 2, and the NCAA, which is often criticized for its mishandling of sensitive situations, made the obvious move and granted the schools an exception to make the rescheduled date and location official. If all goes well, Hill will have a chance to put on her No. 22 jersey and take the floor one last time then.

"I still love the roar of the crowd and the bouncing of the balls and the squeaking of the shoes and people working hard and fighting," Hill told WKRC. "And I just can’t wait to be standing on this court in a basketball uniform, with the No. 22."

For more on Lauren Hill’s story, check out WKRC’s outstanding feature as well as the feature below from WLWT on Hill’s fight:

h/t Sporting News