by Sean Begin
At the end of the season, it’ll just be two points among thousands, the first points of a long college basketball season. But for freshman Lauren Hill, the two points she scored to open her team’s season are so much more than that.
For Hill, who entered her first year at Division III Mount St. Joseph, the layup she scored is a dream she’s had for years, and one that almost never happened.
In September, just after the semester had started, Hill was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an inoperable and rare form of brain cancer, and given only a few months to live by her doctors.
The diagnosis led to an online social media campaign to give Hill a chance to play in at least one collegiate game. So Mount St. Joseph, their opponent’s, Hiram College and the NCAA agreed to move the opening game up a couple weeks to give Hill her a shot to play.
Support and interest for the game was so overwhelming that it was moved to and sold out Xavier’s 10,000 seat Cintas Center.
And on Sunday afternoon, she knocked down an easy layup with her left hand to open the game, before being met by teammates, coaches, family and friends at mid-court. Hill drained another layup at the end of the game with her natural right hand, an even greater feat given the fact that her entire right side has been weakened by her disease.
“I never thought I would play on a college court, put my feet on the floor and feel the vibration of the crowd. This game has been amazing, and everything that happened today was amazing. This is a really good day,” said Hill after the game.
Hill’s fight has inspired many, including perhaps the greatest basketball player in the world right now, LeBron James, who used his Instagram account to tell Hill “Thank you for inspiring me and I’ll try my best to match you!”
In an industry that so often sees so many problems, from domestic violence to drunk driving to cheating, stories like this are always a reminder that a sport can mean so much more. It’s more than just a group of people sharing a common rooting interest. It’s more than a team getting a win to open it’s season.
I’m sure if you asked any player from Hiram College if they’re sad they lost to Mount St. Joseph’s, not one would say yes; not when Hill played; not when Hill scored in the face of impending death; not when Hill understands that what’s most important isn’t the game itself but the support the game provides — for her and for people suffering from cancer like her.
“To reach and touch this many people is amazing. Not many people knew about DIPG before me, and know that they do, we can get research going to cure this cancer,” she said. “I won’t be around to see that, but it’s going to help so many people. That’s why the support can’t end with this game.”