Over the past two seasons, Dawn Evans led James Madison to back-to-back CAA championships, became the conference's all-time leading scorer, and earned numerous awards and accolades.
But her performance on the court isn't what earned Evans this year's V Foundation Comeback Award. It's because she accomplished those things while battling the kidney disorder FSGS.
The honor was officially bestowed upon Evans Tuesday afternoon in a brief press conference at the Convocation Center. The actual award will be presented to Evans at a later date.
"It's an extreme honor," Evans said Tuesday. "Of every award I've ever gotten, this means a lot to me, because of all the support I've gotten from my friends, my family, my teammates, my coaches."
"I think she really inspired us more than we inspired her," said her coach, Kenny Brooks. "Watching her every single day, going out and dealing with the situation she had to deal with, was very encouraging and inspirational to all of us."
The award is presented in memory of former college basketball coach and commentator Jim Valvano, who led NC State to the 1983 national championship. His battle with cancer before dying in 1983 inspired the creation of The V Foundation.
"Dawn Evans exemplifies the 'don't give up' spirit that is the cornerstone of The V Foundation," Valvano's brother Nick, the CEO of The V Foundation, said in a release. "We are proud to welcome Dawn as the recipient of the 2011 V Foundation Comeback Award."
Evans admitted Tuesday that she only recently heard of Valvano and his legacy, including his famous speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards just weeks before his death.
"They really don't know. They haven't seen the pictures of Jimmy V running around, trying to find someone to hug after they won a national championship," Brooks said of Evans and her teammates. "But just as important, I don't know if all of them heard the speech that he gave at the ESPYs right before he passed away, which was so inspiring.
"To have Dawn's name, to have James Madison's name affiliated with him in any way, it's very, very special because of what he has meant," Brooks added. "Not only to basketball, but to people who are going through difficult times."
Evans was first diagnosed with FSGS in December 2009.
"Initially, the doctors told me that my basketball career was over," Evans recalled. "That they didn't think I was going to last that much longer because I have such high fatigue levels."
But she only missed three games after that initial diagnosis. And off the court, she worked to raise awareness for FSGS by becoming an ambassador for the NephCure Foundation.
"I think probably this is her best award, for me, that she's accomplished," Brooks said Tuesday. "Because she's helped so many in doing so."
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