NDSU finds solace in basketball
Release: February 18, 2013
|NDSU finds solace in basketball (ESPN.com)|
|Bison Nation Helping Hannah|
|Caring Bridge/Hannah Linz (Registration required)|
By Graham Hays, ESPN.com
Looking at Hannah Linz lying exhausted on the court, North Dakota State women's basketball coach Carolyn DeHoff saw an opportunity to teach a basketball lesson. Here, it seemed, was an example of the effort required to make a season successful, personified in the prone form of a player who had to come back from cancer to be on the court at all.
Practice wasn't going particularly well on the day in question, which is why Linz and her teammates found themselves on the end line waiting to run. The ensuing din of dozens of pounding sneakers was interrupted only by a series of squeaks as each player reversed direction, the same soundtrack heard in every gym in the country in the days before a season. The sprints completed, the coach called attention to the senior short on breath.
If the others wanted the kind of season to which all presumably aspire, they would be wise to follow Linz's lead.
"I really reflect back on that day because then she got up and she actually had tears in her eyes," DeHoff said. "And I didn't really think about it, what was going on, other than, you know -- here's a kid, again, who has gone through what she's gone through and gets to a certain point and can't go any further. Wants to go further but can't.
"So I just kind of felt it was that."
What DeHoff didn't know was that Linz already sensed it wasn't to be the kind of season the senior had once envisioned. In the days before that practice, Linz asked teammate Katie Birkel to confirm her suspicions that something wasn't normal about the swelling near her collarbone, in close proximity to the location of the tumor associated with the Hodgkin's lymphoma with which she was diagnosed the spring of her freshman year.
It was perhaps the first, and certainly the least authoritative, of the dozens of tests that would follow.
"Not that I know much, but I can tell if it feels different from the other side," Birkel recalled.
By the time Linz was singled out in practice, she had already followed up on her suspicions and sought a professional opinion. Weeks of tests and multiple biopsies followed. She told DeHoff about the tests, the telltale glowing on the PET scans and her concerns that her cancer was back. Gathered together one morning early in the season, those on the team who didn't already know were told. And then they waited.
All the while, Linz continued to play out her senior season. Two things just about everyone mentions when talking about Linz the basketball player are her range as a 3-point shooter and her penchant for no-look passes. Former Bison coach and Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Amy Ruley began the recruiting process with Linz and recalled worrying that a bigger school might swoop in and steal the Minnesota native. But the range and energy that waned before anyone knew what was wrong with her when she was a freshman were slow to return when she came back after chemotherapy and radiation treatment the following summer and fall of her sophomore year.
It wasn't until this past summer that, like the long hair that finally tumbled below her shoulders again, her game seemed fully restored to its former glory.
"This year, you could just see it," DeHoff said. "You could see her strength, her endurance. She could sustain. She never had to be pulled out. Her passing, it was coming back, seeing the floor. Her making 3s, those types of things."
For the rest of the story, click here.
In December 2010, Graham Hays' first story on Hannah Linz -- written eight months after her initial diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma -- ran on ESPN.com. To read the story, click here.
To help defray some of the Linz family's expenses associated with treating Hodgkin's lymphoma for the second time in a little more than three years, North Dakota State established the Hannah Linz Fund. As of the first week of February, more than $6,000 had been raised. Donations can be made to the Hannah Linz Fund c/o Gate City Bank, 500 2nd Ave. N., Fargo, ND 58102. More information on contributing can be found here.