WMU News

Koetsier wins national 'comeback award'

March 28, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Kristin Koetsier, a sophomore forward on the Western Michigan University women's basketball team, has been named the winner of the second annual V Foundation Comeback of the Year Award.

The Comeback of the Year Award is presented to an NCAA Division I, II, or III basketball student-athlete who embodies the spirit and courage represented by former North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano, who died of cancer in 1993. Valvano and ESPN television founded the V Foundation for Cancer Research that year.

"I was shocked," Koetsier said upon learning she had won the award. "Just to read what the other nominees went through makes me realize how big this was in my life.

"After seeing the [V Foundation] video and who Coach Valvano was and what he'd been through, I felt so honored to win the award. I cried. I watched it five times in one day and it's very overwhelming to be given this award," said Koetsier.

Koetsier was one of seven male and female players across the nation named as finalists for the award. She joined Justin Allen of Arizona State, Jamel Bradley of South Carolina, Martha Chaput of Drake, Juan Dixon of Maryland, Andrea Gianni of West Virginia Wesleyan, and Mandy Kappel of Drake as finalists. A panel of judges from the V Foundation's board of directors selected Koetsier as the winner of the award.

"Kristin Koetsier is an extraordinary young woman," V Foundation CEO Nick Valvano said. "We wanted this award to exemplify the spirit and tenacity of collegiate basketball players who face adversity and defy the odds. Kristin's story, her strength, her resolve is an inspiration to all of us.

"My brother loved young people and he loved a challenge. We are proud to present this award to Kristin in his memory and in honor of the courage and spirit and the perseverance she has displayed. She's a very special person and an outstanding example for student-athletes everywhere. Jim said 'Don't give up ... don't ever give up' and Kristin's life exemplifies that phrase."

The 2000 Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year and a two-time All-MAC First Team pick in 2000 and 2002, Koetsier has overcome a knee injury and two life-threatening blood disorders to become one of the best players in MAC women's basketball history.

This past season Koetsier averaged 15.0 points-per-game and 7.5 rebounds per game in 31 games despite being diagnosed with a blood disorder called TTP (thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura) last summer. She underwent daily blood treatments and chemotherapy to combat the illness. The sophomore lost most of her hair and still experiences numbness in her finger tips as a result of the treatment. Koetsier still managed to tie all-time leading scorer Kina Brown as the fastest WMU women's basketball player to reach 1,000 points in her career.

Koetsier missed all but four games of the 2000-01 season after tearing her ACL in a pick-up game. Her spleen was removed the summer prior to her remarkable 1999-2000 freshman season to combat a blood disorder known as ITP (idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura). That season, she scored a MAC freshman record and Bronco single-season record 559 points en route to winning conference freshman of the year and Freshman All-American honors.

"Kristin is someone who works extremely hard and keeps a lot of those things to herself," said head coach Ron Stewart said. "Coaches and other people on the outside don't know the adversity she is facing. She's faced those adversities and battled hard and played hard every day."

Koetsier will accept the award during ESPN The Magazine's 2002 College Basketball Awards show in Atlanta, site of the men's NCAA Final Four. The awards show airs from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight (March 28).

Media contact: Geoff Brown, 269 387-4138, geoffrey.brown@wmich.edu

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