Leon Powe Finalist for Comeback Award
March 15, 2006
CARY, N.C. - Cal sophomore Leon Powe is one of six finalists for the V Foundation Comeback Award, the V Foundation for Cancer Research announced Wednesday. The award is presented in partnership with ESPN and the recipient will be announced during ESPN's basketball Final Four/NIT weekend coverage.
In addition to Powe, the other finalists are: Grant Dykstra, Western Washington; Tammy Frazier, Cheyney University; Tiffanie Hager, University of Rio Grande (Ohio); Brittney Kroon, Seattle Pacific University; and Jamie Vick, St. Vincent College (Pa).
The annual award is open to men and women collegiate basketball student-athletes in all NCAA divisions. It is awarded to an individual or a team who has accomplished a personal triumph in the face of true adversity, be it in health, life or moral dilemma.
The award is presented in memory of Jim Valvano, the late basketball coach and ESPN commentator, whose personal battle with cancer inspired the creation of The V Foundation. In his memorable speech at ESPN's inaugural ESPY Awards announcing the creation of The V Foundation, Valvano's 'Don't Give Up. . .Don't Ever Give Up!' motto created a legacy from which the Comeback Award has been created.
'I am once again amazed and inspired by the incredible strength and resilience of the student-athletes who are nominated for The V Foundation Comeback Award,' said Foundation CEO Nick Valvano. 'These young people are outstanding student-athletes who have faced tremendous adversity and challenges with incredible determination and strength.
'Every one of these finalists truly captures the spirit of The V Foundation,' Valvano continued. 'They have embraced the `Never Give Up' attitude as they have overcome great obstacles. I would be honored to have my brother's name be remembered with each and every one of them.'
The 2006 recipient will be selected by an eight-member sub-committee of The V Foundation Board of Directors. Past recipients of the award are Purdue's Katie Douglas (2001), Western Michigan's Kristin Koetsier (2002), Arizona State's Justin Allen (2003), Texas' Jamie Carey (2004) and Washington's Kayla Burt (2005).
The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, NC State basketball coach and ESPN commentator. Since 1993 The Foundation has raised more than $50 million used to fund cancer research grants nationwide. The Foundation awards grants through a competitive awards process strictly supervised by a Scientific Review Committee of top doctor/scientists nationwide. The Foundation operates with a small staff, a nationwide volunteer network and an all-volunteer Board of Directors and Scientific Review Committee, assuring that over the past five years, an average of 83 cents of every dollar raised has been available to fund cancer research. For more information visit The V Foundation for Cancer Research website at www.jimmyv.org.
2006 V Foundation Comeback Award Finalists
Grant Dykstra, Senior, Western Washington University
A three-time Comeback Award finalist, Grant Dykstra has had to overcome adversity since the age of two when his right arm was caught in a grain auger. Dykstra underwent 16 surgeries to save his arm and the natural right hander learned to play basketball left handed. He earned a scholarship to Western Washington, where he has started every game the last four years. A first-team All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference honoree and 2005 recipient of the United States Basketball Writers Association Most Courageous Award, Dykstra is Western Washington's all-time leading scorer with 1,846 career points. He averaged 20.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists and a team-best 2.0 steals per game as a senior.
Tammy Frazier, Junior, Cheyney University
Less than two years after losing her mother to cancer, Tammy Frazier was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in the fall of 2003 and spent two months in the hospital. During the winter of 2004, she awoke to find herself paralyzed from the waist down, a temporary side affect of chemotherapy. She willed herself to walk again two weeks later, and on March 8, 2004, was told she was cancer-free. Last October, Frazier was diagnosed with spots on her liver. Nonetheless, Frazier returned to the court. She played in 15 games for Cheyney this year, starting 15. She averaged more than 15 minutes per game and was tied for third on the squad in blocked shots. Frazier is a third-generation athlete in her family; her father Marvis and grandfather 'Smokin' Joe' were legendary boxers.
Tiffanie Hager, Senior, University of Rio Grande
Tiffanie Hager has battled cancer and other health issues throughout her career. She was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer in October 2001. Less than a year later, she underwent a second throat surgery three days after having arthroscopic surgery on her left knee. In June 2003, Hager had a third surgery on her throat after learning that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. Hager underwent surgery on her right arm after being diagnosed with skin cancer in January 2004. She also suffered a hernia and had a second arthroscopic knee surgery. In October 2005, Hager had surgery to remove two cysts from her stomach, one the size of a grapefruit. Nonetheless, Hager returned to the court, shooting 50 percent from the field while playing in nearly all of Rio Grande's games.
Brittney Kroon, Junior, Seattle Pacific University
A two-time Comeback Award finalist, Brittney Kroon underwent a liver transplant in 2002 after being diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis (where the body's immune system attacks its own liver). While still taking daily medication to aid in her ongoing recovery, Kroon is the starting center for one of the nation's top NCAA Division II teams. Kroon leads the NCAA and Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) with an average of 4.3 blocks per game and is No. 4 in NCAA career rejections. She holds every GNAC and SPU record for blocks in a game, season and career. This season Kroon averaged approximately 9 points and 6 rebounds per game.
Leon Powe, Redshirt Sophomore, University of California
Leon Powe, who went 629 days between games due to a pair of knee surgeries and a minor stress fracture in his foot, returned to lead the Pac-10 in both scoring (20.7 ppg) and rebounding (10.0 rpg) while earning All-Pac-10 honors for the second time. He was the MVP of the Pac-10 Tournament and is one of 22 finalists for the Wooden All-America team. Powe overcame adversity before ever setting foot on the Cal campus. His father left when he was two and his mother, who struggled to raise Powe and his siblings, died of a heart attack at age 41 when Powe was a junior in high school.
Jamie Vick, Junior, Saint Vincent College
Jamie Vick was diagnosed with leukemia as a sophomore in high school in February 1999. After five years of remission, the leukemia returned in the spring of 2004. Vick underwent a bone marrow transplant on July 9, 2004, and missed the 2004-05 basketball season. She returned to the court this year and played in 24 of her team's 28 games, serving as a team co-captain alongside her twin sister, Jodie.