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.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Guru Insider: In Pursuit of USBWA Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award

Guru's note: special thanks to Chase Colliton of the Appalachian State sports information department

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

It was last fall when the Guru had read the Paul Zeiese sports piece in Pittsburgh about Appalachian State women's basketball coach Angel Elderkin and her battle against ovarian cancer while still on the sidelines that he thought what a wonderful candidate she would make to receive the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award.

Time was still early in the process and it was possible other acts of courage might exist for consideration for the award but the Guru reached out to the folks at Appalachian State in Boone, N.C., made them aware of the honor's existence and suggested if they thought their coach worthy enough, putting together an impressive nomination package might help get them to the winner's podium next April in Dallas at the Women's Final Four.

They responded in full support of coach Elderkin, who on Thursday, Dec. 29, just before tipoff of the highly anticipated showdown in College Park between host No. 4 Maryland and top-ranked Connecticut, was publicly announced as a winner of the 2017 award.

Also announced, as USBWA decided in a special way to honor the spirit and memory of the legendary coach Summitt, whose revealed battle against Alzheimer's disease was lost last June but had previously her name atop the award in 2012, was that a first-ever shared citation would occur and also went outside the realm on the women's side to also honor ESPN broadcaster Holly Rowe, who has had a public fight against cancer while staying on the air.

Rowe, a graduate of Utah, becomes the first women's recipient with no ties to the athletic field as a player or coach.

In the next several days the Guru will chornicle here the backstory of the entire process that went from concept to public announcement of the 2017 award with its various loops and turns working with Appalachian State, ESPN, Maryland, and the USBWA high command.

But for now, the Appalachian people allowed your Guru to share their nomination letter that greatly help land coach Elderkin the award. You can read the full public announcement of the Summitt Award at the USBWA site sportswriters.net All that said, here's the nomination from the Mountaineers.

BOONE, N.C. - We, at Appalachian State University, feel that women’s basketball head coach Angel Elderkin is the perfect candidate for the Pat Summitt USBWA Award. 

During the summer, Coach Elderkin was diagnosed with Stage III Endometrial Cancer, and she could have stopped coaching, but she didn’t. 

She immediately went to work in facing her biggest opponent. 

 All of the visible cancer was removed through surgery, but Coach Elderkin still had to complete a rigorous treatment plan before the season started.  

This plan included six chemotherapy treatment cycles & a period of radiation, which required her to be at the Lineberger Cancer Center 5 days a week. 

During her chemo treatments, she would travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. to perform her treatment, drive back and still make it to practice even when she was fatigued from the treatment. During her radiation treatment, she would leave Monday after a morning workout and return Friday for an afternoon workout, rarely missing any workouts or events with her players. 

She remained visible to her players throughout one of the toughest battles she ever had to fight.

 Coach Elderkin traveled to all five road games to start the season and even following her final chemo treatment, traveled on two road games to Virginia that nearly equaled a day’s worth of travel on the road. 
Since the season has started, she hasn’t missed one game. 

Coach Elderkin coaches every day as she is at her strongest, even if she is feeling her weakest. 

 Often, the staff or players have to corral her back, so she doesn’t overdo it.  This game and her players have been her greatest medicine.

Coach Elderkin’s will to fight, her courage and bravery resonate with everyone from the staff to the athletic department, and to other coaches across the country. 

Coach Elderkin’s passion for basketball and the will to coach through adversity shows you can do what you love while battling this deadly disease.  

Her fight has been about more than basketball, as she has fought with incredible spirit and will every day, inspiring everyone that is around her everyday.  

Coach Elderkin has fought with such grace, passion and spirit throughout this adversity. 

“The power of people and the power of being able to do what you love to do with the people that you love, to me, that is the cure.” – App State Head Women’s Basketball Coach Angel Elderkin

“Angel is deserving because she has been mentally and physically tough throughout this whole process. She has persevered through surgery and harsh treatments fighting a brutal type of cancer. And through it all, coach Elderkin has continued to coach and lead by example. She’s a fighter and an example to everyone on how to fight and journey through this hard time. If she wins, I know she will use her experience to help others go through difficult times. “  - North Carolina Head Women’s Basketball Coach Sylvia Hatchell

“Coach Angel deserves this award because she exudes courage. To have courage means to face obstacles head on even if you are afraid. 
Taking on a bunch of young women she hadn’t recruited for her basketball team and wanting to better them is courageous. 

Fighting an illness that she has no complete control over and still giving us 100% is courageous. She inspires me to love others regardless of outcomes, regardless of whether or not they can do things for me. 

She inspires me to be a better version of myself by being selfless. When I see others down, I make an effort to lift them up. When I see someone struggling, I make an effort to go the extra mile to give them my hand. Coach Elderkin is definitely shining a light in my world.” - App State senior forward Bria Carter

“She’s one of the few coaches in my career that cares about her players as people outside of basketball. It’s more than just a business to her; this is her life. 

That fact that she was diagnosed with cancer and immediately asked the doctor if her treatments would interfere with practice exhibits the bravery she shows. She’s the strongest coach I have ever had, and there’s no one else who deserves this more. 

She’s the very epitome of her own name. Our Angel! “ -  App State senior guard Jasmine Ogunjimi

“Coach Angel deserves this award because she is one of the most selfless coaches I have played for. She always puts the team first and in dealing with her health this past summer, she never once let her team down. 

She always kept us first, almost to the point where we had to ask her to focus on her health. Coach Angel deserves this award because she has fought this battle and WON! She always brings passion and energy to the court and never lets up on the team. Out of anybody in my life or I have come across, I can’t think of a better recipient for this award.” - App State Senior Forward Ashley Bassett-Smith

“If coach Angel wins this award, I would be so proud to be able to be a part of this moment. I’m so blessed to have her as my head coach and inspiring me every day to push harder and get better no matter what I’m dealing with in my life off the court.

 She has always supported me and taken a genuine interest in my life. She cares about my parents and even how my sister is performing in her games. 

Coach Angel is a real inspiration and has taught me that love and passion can overcome all odds. 

If you do anything in your life as long as you love, serve, and care and always do everything with love in your life, you will be successful. 
Coach Angel has truly had an impact on my life and helped change me as a person, player, daughter, and friend. She’s an amazing person, and selflessly cares for others and always wants to make everyone around her.


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