Lauren Hill, terminally ill college basketball player, dies

Posted at 10:01 AM, Apr 10, 2015

(CNN) — Lauren Hill, who took her inspirational fight against brain cancer onto the basketball court and into the hearts of many, has died, the Dearborn County, Indiana, coroner said Friday.

She died late Thursday or early Friday, the coroner said.

The Indiana woman’s story became known around the world last year when she was able to realize her dream of playing college basketball after Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati petitioned the NCAA to move up the opening game of its schedule to accommodate her desire to play.

She went on to help raise $1.4 million for pediatric cancer research with the nonprofit group The Cure Starts Now, which called her a “worldwide inspiration.”

“Lauren captured the hearts of people worldwide with her tenacity and determination to play in her first collegiate basketball game with her Mount St. Joseph University team,” the group said on Facebook.

Her principal at Lawrenceburg High School, Bill Snyder, announced her death to students Friday morning.

“Lauren’s message was constantly positive,” he told CNN. “We all need to work together to beat obstacles. Not just cancer. In any situation we can be positive.”

As news of her death spread, social media lit up with messages honoring her life.

“The greatest accomplishment we can achieve as humans is to inspire many,” Twitter user Just_AP wrote. “Lauren Hill did that.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert said Hill’s “enthusiasm and strength were an inspiration not only to those who knew her best, but also to the millions of people she touched around the world by sharing her story.”

“Lauren achieved a lasting and meaningful legacy, and her beautiful spirit will continue to live on,” he said in a statement.

Hill was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma in 2013, when she was a senior in high school. The rare brain tumor was inoperable, but Hill persisted in playing on her high school team despite chemotherapy treatments.

“I never gave up for a second, even when I got a terminal diagnosis, never thought about sitting back and not living life anymore,” she told CNN affiliate WKRC at the time.

She had already committed to play for Mount St. Joseph when she was diagnosed. In October 2014, the school received permission from the NCAA to move up its schedule so Hill could play.

In front of a sell-out crowd, many wearing T-shirts bearing her name and slogan, “Never Give Up,” watched the 19-year-old score the first two points and the final layup of the game.

“Today has been the best day I’ve ever had,” Hill told the crowd after the game. “I don’t know what to say but thank you.”

CNN’s Jill Martin, Emanuella Grinberg and Faith Karimi contributed to this report.