Guru's Musings: Lauren Hill Story Turns Into a Small World
You never know sometimes how one thing leads to another and eventually back into familiarity.
As your Guru began to think about his presentation of the United States Basketball Writers Association's Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award Sunday to 19-year-old freshman Lauren Hill of Mount Saint Joseph's University in Cincinnati at Xavier's soldout 10,000-seat Cintas Center, a capacity that was filled within an hour of the opening of ticket sales last Wednesday for the game against Hiram College, he began thinking of some of the key points to strike the right chord to match the occasion.
And if you need an explanation of who Lauren Hill is by now then you shouldn't be visiting here.
In many ways thinking about it, the moment at halftime of the game that will be televised on Fox-Ohio could be the most daunting in your Guru's long career, and that includes making the acceptance speeches at various Hall of Fame inductions over the years.
Anyhow, without giving away the store here, especially since nothing is on paper, technically, in a word processing file, yet, he began to think of things that his Philly friend and South Carolina coach Dawn Staley has spoken of over the years.
Well, as it turns out, in a conversation with Jill Eichhorn, the school's overall public relations director, a graduate of Ohio U. who has been thrust in the role of traffic controller for what will become, minimally, the center of the Women's Basketball Universe, she mentioned that Melanee Atkinson, the school's Associate Athletic Director, was looking forward to resuming old ties.
The name bore no quick familiarity until ... her maiden name was mentioned -- Melanee Wagener.
Now you younger folks would have no idea who she might be but she was in the very same enrollment and scholarship class as Staley at Virginia from 1989-92, the squad that also had Tammmi Reiss and the Burge twins, Heather and Heidi.
And here's something wild: Atkinson, a communications major, after graduation, went to play a short lived stay on a team in Spain, and after she was not retained, according to an old interview on the internet where you find everything, who replaced her? Staley.
Meanwhile, the buildup is gaining enormous momentum.
An NFL player currently sidelined by injury has requested anonymity but wants to bring his family to the game.
WNBA players -- both the pro league and the NCAA has support initiatives along with's Lauren's own campaign to brain awareness to the brain tumor that is shortening her life -- are expressing interest in attending and the Guru has heard that one of the fabled Three to See and a relative were trying to get tickets in the closing days leading up to the event.
With all the attention on Lauren's situation being stricken with DIPG, a rare brain tumor, there hasn't been much focus on the school, itself, that only a few months ago was simply a Division III school in the Midwest, not widely known back here in the East.
But, according to the school website, it has several times been listed by various organizations that do such ratings as one of the top institutions i9n Ohio and the nation.
The athletic program, consisting of 24 teams, competes in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
And clipped from the basketball website, here is the biography of Dan Benjamin, who coaches the Lion, and who made the request the NCAA approved of moving up the game two weeks so Lauren could realize her dream of playing in the opener.
Mount alum Dan Benjamin returns for his third season in 2014-2015 with the Lions’ women's basketball coaching staff, and will lead the team as the interim head coach after spending the past two years as an assistant coach. He will also begin his third season as an assistant for the Lions' softball team.
Coach Benjamin, who graduated from the Mount in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science degree, was at Middletown Madison High School as the varsity Head softball coach, leading his team to an 18-6 mark in 2011, before starting at the Mount. Prior to that, he was the varsity assistant coach at Mason High School, from 2004-2011, helping lead the Comets to an elite eight appearance and two final four appearances.
Coach Bear, as he is known by, has taken Education classes at Wright State University, and holds a certification in business through the state of Ohio was recently a teacher at Butler Tech and has taught and coached at many local high schools.
Benjamin resides in Mason, Ohio. He has two children, Alexis and Blake.
More to come.
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