CINCINNATI — Lauren Hill captivated the nation with her courageous battle against cancer and her determination to play college basketball even when a brain tumor was killing her.
The 19-year-old who played in four games as a Mount St. Joseph University freshman in 2014 and raised more than $2.5 million for cancer research before she died five months later will be honored Saturday with induction in the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in Columbus.
Lauren made an inspiring and lasting impact before passing away from Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a rare and fatal pediatric brain tumor, on April 10, 2015.
"I've always said that when we are recognizing players it's not always the stats we should consider, but also the impact the player had," Mount women's basketball coach Dan Benjamin said in a release. "It is awesome to sit back and watch how Lauren still has such an impact on people and on the cause of finding a cure for DIPG."
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Although her inoperable tumor weakened her, gave her severe headaches and forced the right-hander to dribble and shoot left-handed, the Lawrenceburg (Ind.) High School grad was determined to play in the Mount's season-opener against Hiram College on Nov. 2, 2014. The game was moved up two weeks because of her declining health and was relocated to Xavier's Cintas Center to accommodate a sellout crowd and a nationally televised broadcast.
Legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease, had friends drive her from Knoxville so she could present a courage award in her name to Lauren. When Hill scored the first basket of the game, the crowd erupted.
Hill also made the final basket in the Mount's win. She played briefly in three more games, scoring three more baskets, before ending her playing career. All the while she led a fund-raising campaign to find a cure for DIPG and the "home-run cure" for all cancers. Her fortitude, spirit and story inspired donations from around the world to The Cure Starts Now, an organization dedicated to finding that cure.
Lauren's mother, Lisa Hill, an event coordinator for The Cure Starts Now, said it is a tremendous honor that Lauren continues to be remembered with the induction to the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame.
"Lauren would be so honored that her love of the game is not forgotten, and she would be so proud of the work that we continue to do to help support other families by raising money for research and for better treatments," Hill said. "For her to be inducted as a Mount player would have made her so happy. She just loved it there."
Lauren's father, Brent Hill, said the continued recognition of Lauren helps promote finding a cure for DIPG.
"What Lauren did was take a disease that few people have ever really heard of, besides those who have to go through it, and put it out there, in front of the entire country," Brent Hill said. "It would make her so happy there are still people who not only remember her and her story, but also that this amazing fundraising and research is continuing in her name."
Mount Athletic Director Steve Radcliffe said Lauren was incredibly upbeat during her illness.
"Lauren's mission was to let people know about this disease by being a voice for the voiceless," Radcliffe said. "She was fearless through the entire ordeal. And this is just another opportunity to let people hear her story and about the passion she had for finding a cure for a brain cancer that took her life."
The Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame 14th Annual Induction Ceremony will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Columbus.