PHILADELPHIA (USBWA) – Saint Joseph's senior Avery
Marz has been selected as the U.S. Basketball Writers
Association's 2018 Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award recipient
and will be presented with her award at the NCAA Women's Final Four
in Columbus, Ohio, as part of the organization's annual press conference
March 30 in Nationwide Arena several hours in front of the national
Marz, who had been sidelined the past two seasons after suffering
a stroke at age 17 while moving into her dorm for the fall semester
of 2014, returned to active playing duty last month and scored a
three-pointer soon after coming off the bench in the Hawks' first
game at Niagara.
Marz in recent games has been in the starting lineup.
The native of Sinking Spring, Pa., located near Reading, and
her teammates were given word of the USBWA prestigious honor on
Hawk Hill Sunday afternoon ahead of the Saint Joseph's-Drexel women's
game here and then at tipoff Marz' selection was announced to the
crowd and the news was transmitted nationally on social media.
The name of Pat Summitt, the legendary Hall of Fame Tennessee
women's coach, was placed on the USBWA women's most courageous award
in 2012 when she received the award in the wake of her battle against
Early-onset Alzheimer's being revealed the previous summer.
Summitt, the first women's coach to surpass 1,000 victories,
ultimately succumbed to the disease in June of 2016.
Marz fought her way back despite some doctors, while telling
her she was not in a life-threatening situation, did suggest her
playing career was most likely over.
"They told me I'd never walk again, they told me all these things,"
Marz told Doug Feinberg, a USBWA member and the Associated Press'
national women's basketball writer, last month. "Here I am walking
out on a court playing in a Division I game. That was pretty amazing."
Soon after that story was written, many USBWA members sent notes
urging that Marz become this year's Summitt honoree.
Marz's resolve being driven by her love of the game is similar
to 2015 winner, the late Lauren Hill, who battled pediatric brain
cancer to make it to her first collegiate game exceeding the medical
prognosis giving her a shortened life expectancy of just a month
Hill actually lived through the end of that season and in that
time helped raise over $2 million toward research to cure the disease
that claimed her.
"Avery playing again is remarkable. You normally don't see many
people come back from a stroke like she suffered to play again,"
said Dr. Tom Trojian, head of Drexel sports medicine who was the
long time team physician with the powerful University of Connecticut
women's basketball program.
"The perseverance and determination displayed by Avery Marz in
her return to the court for Saint Joseph's is inspiring to us all,"
stated Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade. "Her story
is one that truly shows that you can never underestimate the will
of the human spirit, and Avery is very deserving of the Pat Summitt
Most Courageous Award."
Added Don DiJulia, the longtime Saint Joseph's athletic director,
"Avery's awe-inspiring story has resonated throughout the Saint
Joseph's community and we are thrilled to have her perseverance
recognized nationally with the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award.
"In continuing to share her experience on a national scale, she
keeps proving to be an everyday champion."
Finally, Saint Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin, who has been alongside
watching Marz's efforts to return, praised her work ethic, saying,
"What an honor it is to know and coach a player who has shown great
courage and resilience.
"This award is named after one of the best coaches in the world,
Pat Summitt, who was the ultimate competitor, who fought a challenging
illness and inspired many of us along the way," Griffin continued.
"Avery Marz exemplifies Pat Summitt's courage and competitive
spirit as she overcame what many said she could not, which is to
return and compete at the Division I women's basketball level after
suffering a stroke. Avery is an inspiration to us and is well- deserving
of this prestigious honor."
video (Courtesy Saint Joseph's University)