COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Avery Marz had just returned from her latest rehab session during her recovery from a stroke. The Saint Joseph’s freshman turned on the television and watched Lauren Hill — another college basketball player dealing with an unthinkable setback — receive an award for her courage.
Hill’s inspiring words and example helped Marz keep going. Three years later, after she’d beaten the odds and returned to the court, Marz received the same award for courage on Friday — and a surprise, tear-filled visit from Hill’s parents.
“An amazing thing,” Lisa Hill called it.
Marz received the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association at the women’s Final Four. Lisa and Brent Hill joined her at the podium, sharing hugs and blinking back tears.
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Lauren Hill played her freshman year at Mount St. Joseph’s in Cincinnati despite a brain tumor. She scored 10 points before the tumor made it impossible to continue. She died three years ago.
Marz was 17 years old when she suffered a stroke while moving into her dorm room on Aug. 23, 2014 — a date tattooed on the back of her left shoulder as a reminder of her lowest moment. One doctor told her she’s never play basketball again. After one of her rehab sessions, she returned home and saw Hill receive the Summit Award.
Doctors had told Hill that she didn’t have long to live and she wouldn’t be able to play basketball. She kept going, got on the court and made a left-handed layup in her first game, which was moved to Xavier’s Cintas Center.
“I had time on my side, and she knew she did not,” Marz said while accepting the award. “I knew if I was able to find just half the courage Lauren had, I’d be able to get back on the court.”
She made it back this season, scoring in her first game against Niagara. She played in 21 games, averaged 5 minutes and scored a total of 29 points.
Lisa Hill thinks of Marz and Lauren as kindred spirits.
“I see of lot of her there,” Lisa Hill told The Associated Press. “The tenacity and the drive to keep moving forward, to get herself back on the court — that’s exactly what Lauren did.”
Summit’s son, Tyler, also attended the ceremony for Marz. His mother was known for refusing to accept the word “can’t.”
“I think it did make it more special because there is starting to be a legacy now with the award,” he said. “You see the trend where someone says you can’t and they do it.”
AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg in Columbus contributed to this report.