NORMAN, Okla. University of Oklahoma men's basketball player Michael Neal has been named one of nine finalists for the seventh annual V Foundation Comeback Award by the V Foundation for Cancer Research. The award is presented in conjunction with ESPN and the recipient will be announced during ESPN's basketball Final Four/NIT weekend coverage.
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.
Other finalists are: Warren Carter, University of Illinois; Kaitlyn McCormick, Bethany College; Ashley McMillen, Syracuse University; Lauren Mueller, Converse College; Ralphanee' Peyton, Wayne State University; Ann-Marie Torp, Metro State College; Whitney Tyriver, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh; and the United States Military Academy Women's Basketball Team.
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.
Neal, a senior from Mesquite, Texas, who averaged 10.0 points a game this past season after being named Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year in 2005-06, has battled adversity throughout his collegiate career. Most notably, Neal underwent brain surgery his freshman year in junior college after a nasal infection spread beneath his skull. The life-threatening procedure and long recovery resulted in Neal's loss of a spot on his Seminole (Okla.) State College squad. The guard eventually landed at Lon Morris College in Texas and was a two-time juco All-American before transferring to OU where he has been one of the Big 12's most dangerous 3-point shooters over the past two years.
"Once again I am amazed at the strength and resilience of the student-athletes who are nominated for The V Foundation Comeback Award," said V Foundation CEO Nick Valvano. "These young people are outstanding student-athletes who have faced adversity and challenges with incredible determination and strength.
"These finalists truly capture the 'Don't Give Up' spirit of The V Foundation," Valvano continued. "I would be honored to have my brother's name be remembered with each and every one of them."
The 2007 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), Washington's Kayla Burt (2005), and Western Washington's Grant Dykstra (2006).
The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, legendary NC State basketball coach and ESPN commentator. Since 1993 The Foundation has raised more than $60 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.