Kansas Senior Darnell Jackson Named Finalist for the 2008 V Foundation Comeback Award

March 4, 2008

<?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>CARY, N.C.Kansas senior forward Darnell Jackson has been named a finalist for the eighth annual V Foundation Comeback Award, the foundation announced Tuesday. The award is presented in conjunction with ESPN and the recipient will be announced during ESPN’s basketball Final Four/NIT weekend coverage.<?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

The finalists are: Jermaine Bishop, Northern Arizona University; T.J. Carter, University of North Carolina Wilmington; Kevin Coble, Northwestern University; Mickey Duncan, Berry College; Jamar Fleming, Virginia State University; Alex Franz, St. Mary’s Collegeof Maryland; Khaliq Gant, Cornell University; Danielle Hagen, University of Northern Colorado; Jessica Hall, University ofMemphis; Nicole Hester, Drexel University; Darnell Jackson, University of Kansas; Taylor Rochestie, Washington State University, Carlos Taylor, Montana State University; Anthony Williams, SUNY Plattsburgh.

The annual award is open to men and women collegiate basketball student-athletes in all 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. Student-athletes are nominated by their athletics department representative.

Jackson leads Kansas in rebounding at 6.9 boards per game and averages 12.2 points per outing. In addition to his nomination story below, Jackson has started 25 of 30 games for the 27-3 Jayhawks, who are ranked No. 5 by Associated Press and No. 6 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ polls. Jackson entered the season with career 4.7 scoring and 4.1 rebounding averages.

The V Foundation Comback 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 was created.

“We continue to be amazed at the strength and resilience of the student-athletes who are nominated forThe 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.

“This is the eighth year of the award, and again, the nominees capture the `Never 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 2008 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), ArizonaState’s Justin Allen (2003), Texas’ Jamie Carey (2004), Washington’s Kayla Burt (2005), Western Washington’s Grant Dykstra (2006), and the United States Military Academy Women’s Basketball Team (2007).


The V Foundation for Cancer Research

The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, legendary North CarolinaState basketball coach and ESPN commentator. Since 1993, The Foundation has raised more than $70 million to fund cancer research grants nationwide. It awards 100 percent of all new direct cash donations and net proceeds of events directly to cancer research and related programs. The Foundation, which has received five consecutive top 4-star ratings from Charity Navigator, awards grants through a competitive awards process strictly supervised by a Scientific Review Committee. For more information on The V Foundation or to make a donation, please visit www.jimmyv.org.


Team ESPN encompasses ESPN’s multi-faceted corporate outreach programs including volunteerism, corporate giving and cause marketing, while utilizing its diverse media assets. Through Team ESPN, ESPN, its employees, and its fans work together to make a difference in our world and the communities in which we live. Team ESPN. . .Fans Helping Fans. www.teamespn.com.

2008 V Foundation Comeback Award Finalists

Jermaine Bishop, JR, Northern Arizona University Jermaine is starting and playing exceptional defense for NAU, but given his state eight months ago, the fact that he is even walking is a miracle; following routine surgery to correct a shoulder problem this summer, he developed acute rhabdomyolysis that damaged his body, starting with his legs; surgery followed on his legs followed by two weeks in intensive care; he rehabbed his lungs to play in the Flagstaff altitude, and had to relearn to walk; played his first game back on December 5.

T.J. Carter, SR, University of North Carolina, Wilmington – T.J. has overcome severe physical challenges over the past three years; 2004 underwent Left Hernia Repair and returned in three weeks; one year later had a Bilateral Hernia Repair and was required to take six weeks off prior to returning to training; with persisting pain, was forced to have surgery for a third time in 2006 and missed the entire 2006-07 season following a Pelvic Floor Repair. Following an extensive rest period came back to lead the Seahawks and now ranks among the league’s top performers.

Kevin Coble, SO, Northwestern University – As a freshman last year, Kevin made an instant impact becoming the first player in school history to lead in both scoring and rebounding as a freshman and was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team; this past summer his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and Kevin, an only child, made the decision to stay home in Arizona to help care for his mother; remained enrolled in three classes (including statistics and Swahili) and kept up his class work long-distance in order to remain eligible to return to the team in January; currently leads the team in scoring and rebounding.

Mickey Duncan, SR, Berry College – Mickey has overcome great health adversity to lead Berry College (NAIA in northwest Georgia) and the SSAC Conference; freshman year sustained a fractured nose and later a fractured finger; sophomore season again fractured her nose and was diagnosed with a herniated and degenerative disk in her lower back, leading to modified practices with no contact, but she did not miss a game, leading Berry to its first conference championship in 12 years; sat out the entire season last year due to a serious back surgery and complications with a spinal leak, leading to six month of bed rest; intense physical therapy made up for muscle atrophy and a 25-pound weight loss; started senior season with a third fractured nose and is not allowed to participate in any full practice, limited to swimming, shooting and walk throughs; still has top stats to lead the team to a top-25 national ranking.

Jamar Fleming, SR, Virginia State University – Jamar has lived with grandparents since the age of seven due to parental problems; during the summer of 2001 he gave in to peer pressure of living in the inner-city and was arrested for possession of a firearm; with the help of his high school coach, pulled his life together and led his team to the state high school championship; this season missed six games with a sprained Medial Collateral Ligament, returned to lead the squad; has more than 700 career points at Virginia State and named pre-season CIAA. Will receive his degree in May and led the team academically with a 3.64 fall grade point average.

Alex Franz, FR, St. Mary’s College of Maryland – Dealing with tragic losses in a 17-month span tested Alex’s maturity and perseverance; three months after his 17th birthday, lost his mother to cancer; November of the same year, his JV coach was shot and killed; the following June his best friend was also shot and killed and two days later a classmate drowned; a final tragic event was the death of his varsity coach of a massive heart attack; faced adversity at a time when other teens might have folded; a strong family unit has helped put these events into perspective and Alex has excelled in his freshman year, starting 18 games and leading the team in steals, and second in assists, while posting a 3.75 GPA as a political science major.

Khaliq Gant, SR, Cornell University – A collision in practice with several teammates during his sophomore season resulted in a 50% dislocation of the C-4 and C-5 vertebra; had no movement from the neck, down and faced a chance of permanent paralysis; seven-hour surgery to fuse the vertebra in his neck with bone from his hip; sent to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta that specializes in spinal cord injuries; five months later he was back on campus, walking with the aid of a walker; the only four-year senior on the Cornell squad, his leadership and inspiration over the past two seasons have helped spur the team serving as a part-time student manager/student assistant coach, inspiring all with how much he has overcome and continued dedication to the basketball program.

Danielle Hagen, SR/GR, University of Northern Colorado – At pre-season conditioning in 06-07, Danielle was diagnosed with a partially collapsed lung along with a blood clot in her lung; later was diagnosed with Factor V (five) Leiden, a genetic disorder that caused increased risk of excessive blood clotting; sat out for six months, forced to redshirt her senior season; still tires easily and feels pain when the team goes hard but has returned for the 07-08 season, starting every game, leading the team in scoring and rebounding and has moved into the UNC top 10 in career rebounding, assists and blocked shots; graduated with a BS in finance and is working on her masters with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Jessica Hall, RSJR, University of Memphis – Jessica missed two complete basketball seasons after suffering three different Achilles tears that required three separate surgeries; during 04-05 freshman season earned Team Defensive MVP honors playing in all 29 games; suffered first Achilles tear the following summer, underwent surgery and during physical therapy sustained a second separate tear on the same foot; had a second surgery and sat out the entire season; the following pre-season she suffered yet another Achilles tear, on the opposite foot, sitting out another entire season for rehabilitation; now playing just her second season of college basketball (in four years) she’s a driving force on the Memphis offense as a starter and the team’s second leading scorer; maintains a 3.53 gpa and has been on the Memphis Dean’s List five of seven semesters; will graduate in May and pursue her master’s degree during her senior season.

Nicole Hester, JR, Drexel University – Nicole was a rising sophomore on the Drexel squad earning the team’s Defensive Award; a key contributor to Drexel’s back-to-back winning seasons in 04-05 and 05-06 (first time in 15 years); her junior year lumps on her neck that she had hoped were the results of a cold were diagnosed as cancerous lymph nodes and she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; left school to undergo radiation and chemotherapy and the team struggled to a 10-21 record; returned to school in Fall 2007 but faced the fact that she may never regain lung capacity to play basketball at 100%; worked hard and not only regained her healthy form, she improved several aspects of her game; her leadership has led Drexel to its best start ever in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Darnell Jackson, SR, University of Kansas – Darnell has overcome family tragedies and numerous hurdles throughout his high school and college careers to become a key player for the Jayhawks; as a youth, his absentee father was shot to death with his uncle and a Boy’s Club director assisting his mother and grandmother rearing him; prior to his sophomore season at Kansas, his mother and grandmother were in a severe car accident caused by a drunk driver and killing his grandmother; her untimely death destroyed Darnell; his mother has endured several operations as a result of the accident; missed nine games prior to the 05-06 season from accepting “improper benefits” {from a “genuine friend”}. His payback of $5,000 is being donated to the Boys and Girls Club, which he feels steered him in the right direction during his childhood; in 2006 his grandfather died and his uncle was beaten to death; considered leaving school but with his mother and coaches’ guidance and encouragement, returned to Kansas to a successful career on the court and in the classroom; will graduate this spring with a degree in African and African-American studies.

Taylor Rochestie, RSJR, Washington State University – Taylor is in his second full season with the Top-25 ranked WSU team and is currently the starting point guard; was lightly recruited out of high school and accepted an offer from Tulane University; as a Tulane freshman, started 25 games and earned Conference USA All-Freshman honors; Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans prior to his sophomore season forcing the team to relocate to College Station, TX two weeks before the 05-06 opener; sustained a season-ending knee injury requiring major surgery; with the team’s relocation and lack of facilities and tools for rehabilitation, he decided to accept a transfer to Washington State; had another unexpected surgery prior to the 06-07 season which slowed him down, but came on strong toward the end of the season; this year has started every game at point guard and is an important contributor to WSU’s top 25-ranked team.

Carlos Taylor, SR, Montana State University – Growing up in the notorious Frazier neighborhood of Memphis, Carlos was raised by his determined mother who suffered from severe diabetes complications; he came face-to-face with the opportunity to “give up”; before his senior year in high school when his mother died leaving him as a teen-aged family “patriarch”; living alone without adult supervision, sometimes without heat, paying bills and responsible for his own athletic and academic progress, Taylor maintained a household not only for himself, but also for his brother and two younger cousins; led his high school team, moved on to Southeastern (Iowa) College where he was all-conference and now leads the Big Sky Conference in scoring for MSU; credits the lessons he learned in the year without his mom as a high school senior for the success he has enjoyed on and off the court ever since.

Anthony Williams, SR, SUNY Plattsburgh – Anthony currently leads one of the NCAA Division III top teams, but the point guard’s path to success was not an easy one; lost touch with his father due to a life of periodic incarceration from drug and alcohol offenses; lost his mother to breast cancer and moved in with his grandmother in Brooklyn for his senior year in high school; he became the immediate “parental” role model to his younger brother and sister who moved in with an aunt in Poughkeepsie; he traveled to see them on a regular basis and continues to give them guidance and support as their father-figure; attended Morgan State his freshman year but left college to support his pregnant girlfriend; she returned to college to earn her degree and Anthony sat out two years to raise his son; upon her graduation, Anthony returned to school; will graduate as a likely two-time All America, the first in school history, is the school’s all-time leading scorer and will graduate in May with a BA in History, earning a 3.0 or better in each of the past three semesters.