LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky senior center Eleia Roddy has been named a finalist for the ninth 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.
The finalists are: Suzanne Albert, Felician College; Jermaine Bishop, Northern Arizona University; Kelvin Davis, San Diego State University; Joe Ford, University of the Pacific; Jerika Jenkins, Hampton University; Brooke Johnson, Western Carolina University; Cait McMahan, University of Tennessee; Ole Miss Men’s Basketball Team, University of Mississippi; Eleia Roddy, University of Kentucky; Dana Pernell Smith II, Longwood University; Tiffara Steward, Farmingdale State College; Azania Stewart, University of Florida.
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.
After three-injury riddled years, Kentucky’s senior center Eleia Roddy was ready to hang up her sneakers and call it a career.
“I just wanted to quit,” Roddy said. “I wanted to forget about it all and quit.”
But with the help of her faith, a lot of hard work and determination, and the support of her family and coaches, she fought through four surgeries on her right knee in just three years with hopes of returning to the court.
The amount of surgeries Roddy has gone through while she’s been at UK seems almost too outrageous to be true. After 15 games her freshman season, she had her first surgery to repair her medial meniscus. Everything appeared to be fine following the surgery and she came back for a healthy sophomore year in which she averaged 7.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. But just before her junior season, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament in her knee and had to have ACL reconstruction surgery. She redshirted and missed the entire season. Then, during the summer before her redshirt junior year, her knee was scoped for a partial medial meniscectomy. Finally, all appeared to be well heading into last season, but around September of 2007, Roddy could feel something was not still not right and began having complications. She underwent surgery in November to remove loose bodies in the knee and missed the first 12 games of the season.
It was enough pain, injuries and misery to make any normal person quit, but Roddy is not a quitter. She is a fighter.
“Those injuries just get so frustrating,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “To see her have to rehab so much and come back so many times, you really have to have some toughness about you to bounce back, hang in there and be a fifth-year senior and produce the way she has this season.”
The Columbus, Ohio native has fought back to become one of the most dominant post players in the SEC this season. She is second on the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 12.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game and is one of just three players in the SEC to rank in the top 15 in scoring and top four in rebounding. She also leads the SEC and ranks 13th nationally in double-doubles with 11. With seven straight double-doubles from Dec. 12-Jan.3, she joined former UK All-American Valerie Still as the only players in school history to chart six or more consecutive double-doubles.
Toughness is what makes Roddy the heart of the UK team. Fighting through injury and after injury, Roddy has given the UK Hoops program five years of every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that she possesses. All she asks in return is that people never forget.
“I want people to remember that I never gave up.”
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 was created.
“We continue to be 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.”
“This is the ninth year of the award, and, once 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 2009 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), Western Washington’s Grant Dykstra (2006), the United States Military Academy Women’s Basketball Team (2007), and Drexel University’s Nicole Hester (2008).