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 semifinals.
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 or so.
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."