Unlike most university athletes, Mount St. Joseph basketball player Lauren Hill just wants to play.
And the sooner the better.
In Hill’s case, it’s not a matter of impatience or teenage petulance. She simply doesn’t have much time to waste. Literally.
According to a report from Yahoo!, Hill, a 19-year-old freshman with Mount St. Joseph, a Division III school in the Cincinnati area, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour last fall and given less than two years to live. But rather than wallow in misery, she’s gone on with her life, enrolled in college and endeavoured to play basketball for her school.
In fact, playing collegiate basketball would be a dream come true for the young forward.
With a month to go before Mount St. Joseph’s scheduled season opener on Nov. 15, fear is rising that Hill might never get the chance to play. She had an MRI last month that showed the tumour has grown and doctors now believe she might not live beyond December. That means she could be too ill to play in another month.
So her parents asked Mount St. Joseph coach Dan Benjamin if he could somehow move the team’s opening game to an earlier date. Although NCAA rules ban games that count in the standings to be played before the middle of November, Benjamin went to bat for his young player. He got an exemption from the NCAA and convinced Hiram College to play the game on Nov. 2 at Mount St. Joseph, which was also a change of venue.
“I’ve been coaching in the Cincinnati area for 25 years and part of the reason you coach is to make an impact on people’s lives,” Benjamin said. “In this case, a small change could make a big difference, so it was definitely an easy decision to try to help her make her dream come true.”
This story might not have a happy ending, though.
Hill’s health is apparently sliding — vertigo is a common issue, along with headaches, nausea and poor hand-eye coordination — and she might not be well enough to play on Nov. 2. Even the new date could be too late.
“In two weeks there is no guarantee what condition she’s going to be in,” her mother, Lisa Hill, said. “I do know she will fight tooth and nail to keep herself together and get to that game because she wants to put on that jersey, be on that floor and fulfill her dream of playing on the college level.”
By all accounts, Hill is a fighter. How else would you describe a player who remained dedicated to the sport even though she was undergoing radiation and chemotherapy for most of her senior year in high school. But a will to hold off this insidious disease long enough to play one game — just one damn game — might not be enough.
“The two things that have driven her are her dreams to play at the college level and to spread awareness about this ugly disease,” Lisa Hill said. “If she accomplishes both, she goes out the way she wants to go out. That in itself is priceless.”
Hopefully Hill will find a way to step onto the court and fulfill her dream.