A year later, Pink Zone still picking up steam
On Jan. 24, 2009, you might have woken up and seen the news of something you sadly expected but also hoped wouldn't happen. NC State coach Kay Yow passed away at age 66 after a fight with cancer that stretched more than two decades and inspired millions.
"I cannot believe it's been a year," said broadcaster Debbie Antonelli, who played for Yow at NC State and is on the board of directors for the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund.
"As far as the fund, the message is still the same. Please give your time, your talent, your treasures. Anything you give goes to research. And because of that, you are making a difference in helping find a cure. That's the legacy she wanted to have."
Coming up in February will be the "Pink Zone," a Women's Basketball Coaches Association initiative that began in 2007 with 120 schools participating. Last year, more than 1,600 teams and organizations took part, raising more than $1.3 million.
The Pink Zone this year runs from Feb. 12-21 and will be even bigger. Among the games that will be televised by ESPN networks during the Pink Zone are Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Green Bay (Feb. 13, ESPNU), Miami at NC State (Feb. 14, ESPN2), North Carolina at Virginia (Feb. 15, ESPN2), Connecticut at Oklahoma (Feb. 15, ESPN2) and Michigan at Ohio State (Feb. 21, ESPN2). ESPN's annual whiparound coverage on Feb. 14 will again include eight televised games in two telecast windows.
The Tar Heels-Cavaliers game will have a special meaning to it, considering how both North Carolina player Jessica Breland and Virginia coach Debbie Ryan have fought cancer.
Breland, one of the top post players in the nation, is redshirting this season after undergoing chemotherapy this past summer for Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.
Ryan, who overcame pancreatic cancer in 2000, sent Breland a Build-A-Bear stuffed toy and well wishes when she found out about her illness.
"That was really sweet," Breland said. "When I got sick, it wasn't about which team I played for. It was a lot of people reaching out to me."
Indeed, despite the competition that will be happening on the courts, during the Pink Zone everyone will be on the same team when it comes to raising funds for cancer research.
"Instead of it being a sad occasion," Antonelli said of reflecting on Yow's passing and the Pink Zone, "I'm looking forward to celebrating all the efforts we've made and being thankful to all the coaches and the student-athletes who are participating."