Dying girl: Put me in, coach

CINCINNATI, Ohio - A lot of kids live for basketball. But for 19-year-old Lauren Hill, who started playing in 6th grade and immediately fell in love with the game - she is literally living for basketball.

"She's chasing a dream," said her father, Brent Hill. "And she wants people to see that - that they can do that."

Her dad Brent and her mom Lisa say over the years Lauren has thrown herself into a lot of different things.

"One hundred and ten percent, no matter what it is," said her mother, Lisa.

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Lauren Hill takes aim on the court.
CBS News

"That's the way she's always done it, said Brent Hill."

But they've never seen her commit to anything like she has with basketball this year -- playing on a team even though she has a brain tumor the size of a lemon that is growing daily. Her cancer is terminal.

When the Hill family first heard that diagnosis, Lauren's parents, they don't even remember what happened next. For them, the room went dark and they both got physically ill.

But one thing they do remember was Lauren's reaction, because it was SO Lauren. They say she actually asked the doctor: 'Can I at least still play basketball?'

"I wanted to wear that jersey and feel like a superhero again because that's what I feel when I put on the jersey and that number," said Lauren.

Number 22. Everyone where she lives, near Cincinnati, Ohio, knows that number. Everyone at Mount Saint Joseph University, where she's a freshman, knows of her remarkable commitment to this team.

Believe it or not, even though Lauren now has just weeks to live, she still gets up at 5:30 a.m. for basketball practice. Even though she can't even do most of the drills anymore, she still tries.

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Lauren Hill, center, practices with the Mount Saint Joseph University basketball team.
CBS News

Lauren has her reasons.

"Because I feel like I'd be a quitter," said Lauren. "And I don't like being called a quitter. And I love hearing the squeaking of the shoes and the sounds of the basketballs bouncing. I've got to be here with my team."

Her attitude is remarkable -- only tears we ever saw were of joy when she read about all the people who were supporting her charity called the "The Cure Starts Now." Curing pediatric brain cancer is one of her two top priorities. The other is simply to live long enough to play in her first college game.

"And we'll let her play the game that she loves," said Coach Dan Benjamin. "That's Lauren. She wants to play this game."

Coach Dan Benjamin says their first game is a week from Sunday. Normally about 50 people would attend. But he said this one is already sold out. Ten-thousand tickets gone. In an hour.

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Lauren Hill
CBS News

Asked how he imagines the game, Coach Benjamin replied: "Oh, the lights are dimmed. Twenty-two is announced. Hopefully we'll get the tip. We've got a play put together. We're calling it Lauren's lay-up and the crowd going crazy."

"That's the plan."

Sounds like Ohio's getting a new superhero.

"Never give up!" goes the cheer.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.