An Ohio student whose last wish is to play in a college basketball game will see her dream come true in front of thousands of fans after the NCAA agreed to move up her team’s season opener so she would be well enough to play.
Lauren Hill, 19, was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an inoperable brain condition, in November 2013, not long after she committed to playing college basketball at Cincinnati’s Mount St. Joseph’s University on her 18th birthday.
Last month, Hill, who was recruited as a local high school standout, got the news that her brain tumor had grown and she had only months to live.
After the diagnosis, Hill kept playing basketball, joining her Mount St. Joseph teammates for practices.
“She wanted to be a part of the team and wanted to do as much as she could,” Dan Benjamin, Mount St. Joe’s girls’ basketball coach, told ABC News. “When she came to the Mount, she told her players, ‘You guys have to be committed. You have to play hard. Just like I have to play hard,’” Benjamin said.
When Benjamin learned of the progression of Hills’ tumor, he mentioned to an NCAA official and the coach of the team Mount St. Joe’s was scheduled to open their season against--Hiram College--that he was going to seek a waiver to move the game to an earlier date.
“By the time I got into my office that Monday morning, I not only had an email from the NCAA but a message saying, ‘Just send us the medical documents,’” Benjamin said. “They have moved fast and it’s been remarkable.”
Instead of a Nov. 15 face-off, Hill and her teammates will now play Hiram Nov. 2 at Xavier University's 10,000-seat Cintas Center.
“We typically get only get 100 or 200 people per game so they’re excited to play in front of so many people,” Benjamin said of his team. “They’re more excited to help Lauren finish her mission.”
A big part of the mission for Hill, who could not be reached for comment today by ABC News, has been to help raise awareness for DIPG which, according to Benjamin, typically strikes children.
“Lauren took this upon herself to say, ‘There’s no one that can tell the story because these kids can’t talk about it,’” Benjamin said. “She said, ‘I can be the spokesperson.’”
Hill and her teammates created t-shirts to sell as a fundraiser. Proceeds from the t-shirts as well as tickets to the Nov. 2, game will go to The Cure Starts Now Foundation and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Despite all the attention Hill’s story has received – including a visit from Cincinnati Bengals’ player Devon Stills, whose daughter is battling pediatric cancer – her coach says she is focused on the game.
“She wants to hear the squeakiness of her tennis shoes on the floor. She wants to hear the dribbling of the ball and the roar of the crowd,” Benjamin said. “That’s all she wants.”
“She’s taught me, don’t ever give up,” he said. “There’s no reason to not roll out of bed with a smile on our face like she does.”