The Mount St. Joseph University women’s basketball team was slated to start the season on November 15. However, head coach Dan Benjamin received an unusual request from Lauren Hill’s parents, Lisa and Brent.
Hill has dreamed about playing college basketball since she was a little girl. Doctors recently discovered that an inoperable brain tumor at the base of her brain stem had grown so large that she likely wouldn’t survive through the end of the year. Last November doctors diagnosed Lauren with Diffused Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a rare, inoperable pediatric brain tumor that most often affects children between the ages of 5 to 10. The disease kills 90 percent of victims within 18 months.
Speaking to Yahoo Sports, Benjamin said, “I’ve been coaching in the Cincinnati area for 25 years and part of the reason you coach is to make an impact on people’s lives. In this case, a small change could make a big difference, so it was definitely an easy decision to try to help her make her dream come true.”
Under Division III rules, games played before mid-November are not counted in the standings, however, the teams coach petitioned the NCAA for a special exemption, and it was granted. Coach Benjamin then spoke with his teams first opponent, Hiram College, who agreed to change the season opener to November 2. They also agreed to change the venue so Mount St. Joseph could play at home with Lauren Hill able to take to the court.
Unfortunately, Lauren Hill’s condition has worsened, and she could be faced with rapidly deteriorating health in the coming weeks. Her mother says that some days she suffered from hand-eye coordination issues, and other days she experiences extreme bouts of vertigo. She also suffers from headaches and nausea on a daily basis and the right side of her body has grown weak.
Even if she doesn’t play in an entire game, her friends and family say Lauren is a fighter who will muster the strength to play at least a few moments on November 2. She played a majority of her senior high school year, despite undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, teaching herself to shoot left-handed because of a loss of strength in her right arm.
Basketball drives Lauren Hill, so here’s to hoping she will be given the chance to step out onto the court and represent Mount St. Joseph on November 2.