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Epic Hoops 4 Hope on Sunday

By now, the annual Hoops 4 Hope basketball game, the late Kay Yow’s celebration for cancer awareness and fundraising, has become one of the most anticipated events for NC State’s campus community.

In its ninth year, the game is both a celebration of the Hall of Fame coach’s irrepressible spirit in her battles against breast cancer and a day of comfort for those who are fighting and have fought similar battles.

But Sunday’s game will be a little different. That’s because, for the first time in the history of the event, the No. 10 Wolfpack will send a ranked team onto Kay Yow Court to face its biggest rival, No. 13 North Carolina. The game, which is slated to begin at 3:30 p.m., will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.

Tickets for the game are $10 for adults and $5 for children, with proceeds going to the research fund founded in Yow’s honor on Dec. 3, 2007. The first eight Hoops 4 Hope games have raised more than $160,000 for cancer research and the Yow fund has given $3.83 million in grants for scientific research and related programs focused on women’s cancer since its inception.

Play 4Kay

The contest between the two traditional rivals also will be part of ESPN’s Play 4Kay initiative that will feature eight games over two days on three of the cable giant’s networks, finishing with a matchup between ACC rivals Duke and Maryland on Monday night.

For first-year Wolfpack head coach Wes Moore, whose inaugural team is one of the biggest surprises in college women’s basketball, it will be a special day to remember his former boss. Moore, who has guided the Pack to 21-3 overall and 8-2 ACC records heading into Thursday’s 3 p.m. contest at Clemson, was an assistant to Yow from 1993-95.

Kay Yow and her team at the third Hoops 4 Hope game.

He knows all about the pregame silent auction, the concourse-level displays with all the giveaways from the sponsors and the halftime parade of cancer survivors, including many staff and faculty members who developed a special relationship with a coach who went out of her way to connect athletics to the larger campus community.

He will see all the free T-shirts given to the first 2,500 fans and take a brief moment to remember all that Yow has meant to the world of college basketball, both with her on-court success and her brave and public battles with cancer, which first appeared in 1987, went into remission and returned some two decades later. After a three-year battle, Yow died on Jan. 24, 2009, just weeks before fourth-annual Hoops 4 Hope event.

“Everybody these days has a Play 4Kay game, and they are all special,” Moore says. “But Hoops 4 Hope is the one that started it all. I don’t think you can compare any of the other ones to this, a game played at NC State on Kay Yow Court to benefit the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

“It’s going to be something special to be a part of.”

Big Stakes

The stakes are also a bit higher than in years past, since both the Wolfpack and Tar Heels are ranked in the top 15 in the national polls. And the game takes on a bittersweet flavor, since UNC is without its head coach, Sylvia Hatchell, a long-time friend of Yow who was diagnosed with leukemia in October and is recovering from treatment. Her cancer is now in remission and she hopes to return to the team for next month’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro.

With all the storylines combined, the stands will be packed with both fans, former players and cancer survivors for the nationally televised contest.

“I’m hoping to see scalpers outside Reynolds Coliseum,” Moore says. “It’s an awesome cause to be supporting. It’ll be a great day to give back and to see some awesome women’s basketball.”