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Vol. 52, No. 4 May 2015 .pdf version
Hill presentation highlights Women's Final Four event
For the third straight year, the USBWA Women's Awards news conference was held in the venue at the site of the Women's Final Four several hours in advance of the NCAA national semifinals. And this time, the well-attended event that included friends and families of the recipients was extra special.
Because Connecticut's Breanna Stewart was preparating for the Huskies' contest with Maryland, the repeat USBWA Anne Meyers Drysdale national women's player of the year was represented by senior associate athletic director Deb Corum.
Courtney Banghart became the first Ivy League individual to win coach of the year after her Tigers became the first Ivy men's or women's team to go 30-0 during the season and the second of the Ancient Eight women to win an opening-round NCAA game.
Sue Donohoe, who spent many years running the women's tournament as the NCAA vice president of Division I women's basketball, was on the spotlight side in Tampa as she became the first winner of the Mary Jo Haverbeck Award, the equivalent of the Katha Quinn Award on the men's side.
"Mary Jo started a resource website devoted to women's basketball, its news and history, called Cup of Coffee,'" Donohoe said. "I spent my mornings with what I would call a 'cup of (Mary) Jo.'"
Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell, who led Division I in scoring, was named the USBWA freshman of the year.
The highlight of highlights came when Division III Mount St. Joseph's coach Dan Benjamin talked about 19-year-old Lauren Hill, who received the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award in November at her first game. Hill was suffering from pediatric brain cancer.
The USBWA took the unprecedented move of giving Hill the award at the beginning of the season, and Summitt made a special trip to Cincinnati to help present the honor in the sold out 10,000-seat Cintas Center on Xavier's campus.
According to her original prognosis, she was unlikely to live past mid-December. Hill, in the intervening months, defied the prognosis and led the charge to raise over a $1 million to fight the disease.
Summitt's son, Tyler, who just completed his first year as head coach of Louisiana Tech, appeared at the news conference to help Benjamin make the presentation.
"It takes a lot for Pat Summitt to get inspired. Usually she's the one who is the inspiration," Tyler Summitt said. "When she came back and we talked, she said, 'Man, I love Lauren. She's a fighter. I love that kid.'"
Benjamin noted, "I'd much rather she be here than me. Here's a 19-year old girl teaching me about life."
He talked about how while she was in the hospital, Hill was still battling the disease. Sadly, Hill's fight ended with her death five days later, but not before inspiring a nation to pick up the torch and make good on her legacy.
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