Lauren Hill, a freshman basketball player at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, passed away Friday after a year-and-a-half-long battle with a rare form of inoperable brain cancer.
A few weeks after committing to Mount St. Joseph during her senior year of high school, Hill was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. Doctors gave her two years to live, at best, according to Joe Kay of The Associated Press.
That didn’t stop her from living out her dream of playing college basketball, however. Last November, the NCAA granted Mount St. Joseph a special waiver, allowing the school to move up its season-opening game against Hiram College by two weeks in hopes that Hill would be healthy enough to participate.
Not only did she participate, she hit the first and last shots of the game:
Back in October, the United State Basketball Writers Association unanimously decided to honor Hill with the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award, given annually to a female basketball player or coach. Though the award is typically presented at the Women’s Final Four, the USBWA decided to move up the announcement and presentation given her unique circumstances.
Following Hill’s death on Friday, Summitt, the legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach, shared her condolences on Twitter:
Sadden to hear of Lauren Hill’s passing. She was a true inspiration to us all.
— Pat Summitt (@patsummitt) April 10, 2015
She wasn’t the only member of the sports world who lamented Hill’s passing on Friday. Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James sent a five-tweet message to Hill, ending with this:
Until we officially meet again, take care and continue to be that LEADER we all love! #RIPLaurenHill
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 10, 2015
Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Devon Still, whose four-year-old daughter Leah was diagnosed with stage-four neuroblastoma last June, praised Hill’s fighting spirit on an Instagram post:
When you die it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you leave." Lauren never let this terrible disease define her. She didn't let it control whether she lived out her dream of playing college ball and she fought to live pass what doctors originally told her she would. Lauren left her mark on this world by showing people what it really meant to NEVER GIVE UP. So would I say she lost her battle with cancer? Hell no! Because of her fight and selfless act of using her fight to raise an incredible amount of money and awareness, doctors will one day find a cure for DIPG! It hurt like hell seeing the news this morning and i'm not even sure how I'm going to tell my daughter. In the past two weeks, two kids that I have met and developed relationships with have passed from cancer smh something's got to give its not right #For22 #LaurenStrong A photo posted by Devon Still (@man_of_still75) on Apr 10, 2015 at 6:59am PDT
Her basketball coach, Dan Benjamin, did the same:
“Today, we celebrate a victory in how to live a life.” - Dan Benjamin, Lauren Hill’s coach pic.twitter.com/WmniTxx2nY
— NCAA (@NCAA) April 10, 2015
In a statement, Mount St. Joseph president Tony Aretz said, “We are forever grateful to have had Lauren grace our campus with her smile and determined spirit. She has left a powerful legacy. She taught us that every day is a blessing; every moment a gift.”
NCAA president Mark Emmert also offered his condolences.
“Lauren Hill’s bravery, enthusiasm and strength were an inspiration not only to those who knew her best but also to the millions of people she touched around the world by sharing her story,” said Emmert in a statement. “Lauren achieved a lasting and meaningful legacy, and her beautiful spirit will continue to live on. Our hearts go out to her family, friends, teammates and coaches.”
According to the AP, Hill’s foundation helped raise over $1.5 million for cancer research.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.