CINCINNATI (AP) – Lauren Hill was remembered with her own music and words on Monday in the basketball arena where she had one of her greatest moments.
Only this time, the crowd celebrated not a layup, but a life. A brief life, fully lived.
The 19-year-old college basketball player died Friday from a brain tumor that had been growing inside of her for more than a year. The Mount St. Joseph freshman devoted her final year to playing basketball, raising money for cancer research, and inspiring others.
The public was invited to attend a memorial on Monday evening at Xavier’s 10,000-seat Cintas Center, where she made a left-handed layup to open a Division III game on Nov. 2, the first of five layups in her career.
There was no more appropriate place to say goodbye.
Her family decided to play music from her iPod to start the memorial, which would include video of her layup only 17 seconds into Mount St. Joseph’s 66-55 win over Hiram College in the season-opening game that was moved up because of her declining condition.
One of her favorites – Katy Perry’s “Roar” – was chosen to end the hour-long memorial in front of family, teammates, coaches and the Hiram College team as well.
And her motto would be repeated: “Never give up.”
Already, Hill had been honored during a brief on-campus memorial, on restaurant promotional signs, and with a moment of silence before a Cincinnati Reds game on Friday.
“She was a hero,” Mount St. Joseph President Tony Aretz said. “We need heroes.”
Hill tried to make the last months of her life about helping and inspiring other people. Through a nonprofit foundation, she helped to raise roughly $1.5 million for research into pediatric cancer. Shortly before she died, she set a goal of raising $2.2 million – matching her uniform number.
The fundraising campaign will continue through the school and the foundation.
Hill was a high school senior in nearby Lawrenceburg, Indiana, when she started having dizzy spells. Tests found the inoperable brain tumor. She decided to attend college anyway, hoping to live long enough to get into a game.
The NCAA recognized her condition and allowed the school to move up the opener. The great interest in the game prompted Xavier to host it.
The arena was packed for the game, which started with a set play to get her a left-handed layup. She also made a right-handed layup late in the game. Each time, there was another roar followed by more goose bumps and tears.
She played in four games overall, scoring 10 points, before she was too weak to continue.
Before the season started, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association voted her the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award, which is normally awarded at the Final Four. The honor was noted again at the women’s Final Four a week ago.
She did a satellite interview for “The View” a few weeks ago to talk about her condition. In an interview with the WCPO crew that set up the remote for that interview, Hill was asked how she’d like people to remember her when she’s gone.
“She was a hero and she showed cancer who’s boss,” Hill said.