Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Guru's Special Report: Pat Summitt Reacts to the Lauren Hill Story

By Mel Greenberg

Tennessee legend and coach emeritus Pat Summitt sent her reaction Wednesday to the news that Division III Mount Saint Joseph’s 19-year-old freshman Lauren Hill, who is battling an inoperable brain tumor but plans to play in her first college game on Nov. 2, will receive the United States Basketball Writers’ Association (USBWA) Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award.

Details of the unprecedented move to award Hill the honor right now is posted at the USBWA website and here’s the link.


The annual award was given to Summitt at the 2012 Women’s Final Four in Denver and her name was placed upon it to be given to all future recipients.

In August, 2011, Summitt revealed she had early onset Alzheimer’s but went on to coach that season and then stepped down from her Hall of Fame career that consisted of more than 1000 victories.

“Lauren Hill is so very deserving of the honor being bestowed on her by the United States Basketball Writers Association,” Summitt said.

“She is an incredible young woman facing a tremendous opponent. The way Lauren has handled her situation speaks volumes about her character and her will.

“I greatly admire and respect her courage and her resolve.”

As is stated in the USBWA release announcing the award: A year ago Hill was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, an inoperable brain tumor, and doctors gave her about two years to live in the best scenario.

This was learned about six weeks after she gave her commitment to attend the university.

She continued to play basketball through her senior year at Lawrenceburg High in the greater Cincinnati area while undergoing treatments for the cancer.

Last month soon after beginning her collegiate life, it was determined that the tumor had grown larger and doctors now give her at best only a few months to live.

Lauren’s big wish was to still play in her first collegiate game.

To help her realize that dream and with an unprecedented exemption from the NCAA, Hiram College agreed to Lions’ coach Dan Benjamin’s request to play the game at Mount Saint Joseph’s in Cincinnati and move it up to Nov. 2 two weeks ahead of the original season start date.

On Friday, because of the anticipated interest, the game was moved to Xavier’s Cintas Center, a 10,000-seat arena, and on Wednesday tickets went on sale and the place was sold out within a half-hour, as quick as a recent NBA preseason game involving the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James.

When the Guru arrived at Big East media in New York at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday and during the greeting with commissioner Val Ackerman, when he mentioned the USBWA move and what was going on, Ackerman quickly reacted knowingly saying, “Yes, it is in one of our arenas, and Fox is going to televise the game.”

Actually, it is Fox Sports Ohio and a Fox executive at Big East media day told the Guru that since the Guru plans to be in Cincinnati because the school would like the award to be presented at halftime, the network would make that part of the broadcast.

The Guru is hopeful of personally offering Lauren a congratulatory phone call Thursday.

During the last conversation during the day with coach Benjamin, he said Lauren was given the day off to rest so while he was sure the family learned about the honor, it was not known yet of their reaction.

As to how the USBWA move came – the plan is still to give a worthy Division I candidate, though not limited to Division I, the Summitt Award at the Women’s Final Four in Tampa, Fla., it was during last week’s USBWA board of directors conference call to organize for the men’s and women’s seasons that Guru, who represents the women’s media group, suggested that perhaps, since the NCAA did the right thing in allowing the move up, that perhaps why not likewise the USBWA, considering the meaning of the award and Lauren’s terrific stand, not only for the love of basketball, but to also bring awareness to her condition so perhaps someone in the future might be able to be cured in a similar situation.

Within seconds of the proposal, the rest of the board immediately endorsed the action and we went from there.

Meanwhile, the NCAA is making its own gestures to help the cause and under the signature of Anucha Browne, the vice president of Women’s Basketball for all three divisions, the following letter has gone out to the entire membership:

Friends in women’s basketball ...Lauren Hill needs your help NOW!!!

By now you probably have had the opportunity to experience the heart-breaking story of women's basketball freshman Lauren Hill of Mount St. Joseph's University (http://www.local12.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/one-last-game-18984.shtml). The wish of this terminally ill student-athlete to be able to play in a college game will be fulfilled on Sunday, November 2, 2014 at 2 p.m. at the Cintas Center on Xavier University’s campus when Mount St. Joseph's plays against Hiram College.

Net ticket proceeds from the game on November 2 will be donated to The Cure Starts Now Foundation .

In addition to the ticketed donation, Mount St. Joseph's will be raising additional funds for the Foundation by selling signed Lauren Hill, No. 22 jerseys.

This is where you can assist in this effort. If you have a team jersey - No. 22 - that you can donate to the cause, Mount St. Joseph's would be receptive to receiving what you can provide. Plan is for Lauren to sign the jersey, which will then be auctioned off, proceeds benefitting The Cure Starts Now Foundation.

If you have a No. 22 jersey from your university that you can donate, please send by October 30th to the attention of Mount St. Joseph's head women's basketball coach Dan Benjamin:

Dan Benjamin
Head Women's Basketball Coach

College of Mount St. Joseph
5701 Delhi Road
Cincinnati, OH 45233-1670
Phone: (513) 244-8599

By the way, Adam Waller, who helps administer the Pat Summitt Foundation with her son and new Louisiana Tech coach Tyler, told the Guru that she is doing great and recently spent some time in Ruston at Tech’s practices.

“She plans to be at a lot of his games,” Waller said, “because their schedule will have them playing a lot of teams near here (Knoxville).

So that is the latest but the Guru has been working at this end with coach Benjamin and the school’s public relations department on a daily basis.

And go over to Blue Star Media.org where the Guru will attempt to post regular conference media day activities from the places he has been.


- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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