Teen Dies of Cancer After Living College Basketball Dream – ABC News
Lauren Hill spent her final year polishing a layup and inspiring others to live fully. She succeeded at both as she fought an inoperable brain tumor.
The 19-year-old freshman basketball player at Mount St. Joseph University died at a hospital Friday morning, the co-founder of her nonprofit foundation told The Associated Press.
“Through Lauren’s fundraising and advocacy efforts, she not only became a spotlight on the lack of funding for cancer research, but she most certainly has become a beacon guiding researchers for years to come,” The Cure Starts Now co-founder Brooke Desserich said.
Hill wouldn’t let the tumor dictate her final days. Along the way, she became known simply as Lauren, someone who knew how to make the most of every day and who had a knack for encouraging others to do the same by the way she persevered.
Her nonprofit foundation helped to raise more than $1.5 million for cancer research.
“She’s made an impact on the world, more so than me — more than I ever will do,” her coach Dan Benjamin said. “I’ve gotten so many emails and phone calls from all over the world. People are contacting me because they want to share her story.”
A year and a half ago, Hill was just another high school student getting ready for college. She decided to play basketball at Mount St. Joseph, a Division III school in suburban Cincinnati. Soccer was her favorite sport, but basketball became her selling point.
A few weeks later, she started experiencing dizziness while playing for her high school team in nearby Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Tests found the tumor. Treatment didn’t work. She knew she had less than two years left.
While the tumor squeezed her brain, Hill squeezed back, holding onto life as tightly as she could.
“I’m spreading awareness and also teaching people how to live in the moment because the next moment’s not promised,” Hill told the AP after one of her team’s 6 a.m. practices. “Anything can happen at any given moment. What matters is right now.
“Especially after this kind of diagnosis, your perspective on life and what you value changes.”
For Hill, that meant spending time with her parents and a brother and sister, going to college, raising money for cancer research, inspiring others, and achieving her goal of scoring a basket in a game.
A lot of people got involved to make it happen.
The NCAA agreed to let Mount St. Joseph move up its opening game against Hiram College by two weeks because Hill’s condition was deteriorating. Xavier University offered its 10,000-seat arena so more people could attend. Tickets sold out in less than an hour.
By the time the game came around on Nov. 2, the tumor had affected Hill’s right side so much that she had to shoot with her non-dominant hand. With Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt and an impressive cast of WNBA players on hand, Hill took a pass and made a left-handed layup only 17 seconds into the game.
Tears. Goosebumps. Applause.
She also made the last basket of the game, returning for a right-handed layup this time.
“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “To play on a college court, to put my foot down on the floor and hear the roar of the crowd — I just love it so much. I love basketball.
“Everything that happened today was amazing. I’m truly happy, it’s a really good day.”
NCAA president Mark Emmert said Hill achieved a lasting and meaningful legacy.