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Dawn Evans: Courage on the Court

James Madison University senior guard Dawn Evans has more than 40 school records. She has been one of the NCAA’s top scorers for the past three seasons. Her play on the court is worthy of all the attention she has received, but it’s what is going on with Dawn off the court that makes her truly special.

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In 2009, the Dukes star player was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease called FSGS. Throughout the season, Dawn suffered from severe fatigue and headaches, often right before and even during games. But anyone who knows Dawn knows nothing will keep her down.

“Dawn hasn’t let this situation bring us down,” said JMU coach Kenny Brooks. “She’s let it inspire us as a basketball program.”

In fact, Dawn continues to push herself. Since her diagnosis, she has missed only three out of 60 games. In the 2009-10 season—the same year she was diagnosed with FSGS—Dawn averaged 24.6 points per game, tied a school record for most points in one game (38), and was among 40 finalists for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association State Farm All-American Team. And that was just as a junior!

This year, she bested her single-game scoring record with 42 against the University of Virginia. She averaged 23.1 points per game and became the Colonial Athletic Association’s all-time leading scorer.

But shortly after the final buzzer sounds after each game, Dawn takes time to meet with families and children suffering from FSGS in her role as an ambassador for the NephCure Foundation, a role she takes very seriously.

“With NephCure, I’m able to help somebody else,” Evans said. “To know that I can be up here and that basketball can help me to bring awareness to this … I’m just grateful to be a part of it.”

Last week, Evans received one of the greatest honors of her career. In recognition of her outstanding perseverance, the V Foundation (in memory of Jim Valvano) announced they would be presenting Evans with the 11th annual V Foundation Comeback Award. The award is given each year to a collegiate basketball student-athlete or team that has overcome adversity.

“It’s an extreme honor,” says Evans. “Out of all the awards I’ve ever gotten this means a lot to me.”

Personally, I think the V Foundation made a great choice. Dawn is a class act.

(Photo by Cathy Kushner, JMU Athletics Photography)