NRL News

Teen basketball player using her terminal brain cancer diagnosis to raise money to raise awareness and fight the disease

by | Nov 4, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

Lauren Hill

Mount Saint Joseph freshman Lauren Hill. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

I happened to be trolling the television Sunday when I caught the last part of an incredible story about Lauren Hill. I immediately knew I had to write about this remarkable teenager but, alas, promptly forgot. Fortunately Kathy Ostrowski, of Kansans for Life, reminded me of this true-life story yesterday.

Kathy heard about the 19-year-old freshman who played her first collegiate basketball game Sunday night for Mount Saint Joseph University, a tiny Division III college located in Cincinnati, from NPR.

From the story by NPR’s Sam Sanders we learn:

So many people wanted to see Lauren Hill play that her school, Mount St. Joseph University, had to move the game from its 2,000-seat venue to another one in town that seats 10,000. The game still sold out. The crowd went wild just after Lauren Hill’s first basket right as the game began.

Why were these people so excited (and close to tears)? Because as a high school senior, Lauren was diagnosed with a very deadly form of brain cancer– Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG)–which is inoperable. She underwent nearly a year of chemotherapy and radiation. In September doctors told her she had months to live.

Facing imminent death and battling the effects of a brain tumor the size of a lemon, her bucket list included playing college basketball. Here’s how The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Tom Warsinskey described the game whose significance had grown exponentially as word got out about Lauren’s condition and that she would play Sunday afternoon.

In front of 10,250 standing and cheering fans at Xavier University’s sold-out Cintas Center, Hill took a bounce pass and scored a lightly contested layup with her non-dominant left hand on the game’s first possession. Hill beamed after making the hoop on a pre-arranged “layup for Lauren” play, a shot she missed several times during practice last week.

“The look on her face was priceless,” Hiram coach Emily Hays said Monday.”She had that big smile. I’m like, ‘That’s why we’re here.’ It’s more emotional now than it was even at the game. It kind of hits you even more when you’re looking back at it.”

She came back in the waning moments of the game and scored another basket. Lauren not only never stopped smiling, “She had a noticeable glow and bounce in her step while on the court.”

Lauren’s moxie was evident during an in-game interview on FoxSports when “she quickly corrected a broadcaster who referred to the game as her last, saying it was her first college game,” Warsinskey explained. “Hill told reporters after the game she hoped to be well enough to try to play again.”

As you would expect there is incredible support for this courageous young woman. “The NCAA announced at the game that future women’s season openers will heretofore be known as the Lauren Hill Gray Game,” according to Warsinskey. “Gray is for the color of ribbons that raise awareness of brain cancer.”

Professional female basketball stars, including Elena Delle Donne and Tamika Catchings, attended the game while Cleveland Cavalier superstar LeBron James offered a Twitter/Instagram tribute after the Cavs practice Sunday.


Lauren is also trying to “raise awareness about her disease, and raise money to fight it,” according to NPR’s Sanders.

Keith Desserich runs a charity called The Cure Starts Now, which is dedicated to raising research funds to fight DIPG, the type of cancer Lauren Hill has.

“She wanted to fight, she wanted to be fearless, she wanted to win the battle,” Desserich says. “And she wanted to make sure that no child has to go through what she’s going through today.”

(At, see the “Layup4lauren” challenge.)

The game was originally scheduled for November 15 at Hiram. “When approached by Mount St. Joseph this fall, Hiram coaches and officials agreed to move the game, with NCAA approval, so it could be played soon enough for Hill before her deteriorating condition prevented her from playing at all,’ Warsinskey wrote.

Hiram coach Hays and star center Kelsey Koskinen said they found Hill genuinely inspiring.

“She is just the most upbeat person despite what she’s going through,” Koskinen said.”Her smile lights up a room. She wants to hug you every chance she gets. You can’t help but want to hug her back and smile. She’s someone I will truly admire the rest of my life.”

Categories: Life