Missouri women's basketball honors memory of Kay Yow

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 | 11:34 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Johnnie Harris has got a story for you. 

It's one about the strengths she saw in a coach battling breast cancer.

Harris, an assistant for the Texas A&M women's basketball team, was an assistant for former North Carolina State coach Kay Yow during the 2003-04 season. Missouri's game against Texas A&M on Tuesday at Mizzou Arena was played in honor of Yow.

It is 2003 in Raleigh, N.C., at the Wolfpacks' practice. Harris said Yow was calling out a player for not taking a charge.

"So she gets out there and says, 'I'll do it.''' Harris said. "She comes out and at the first the girl came down and wouldn't hit her. Coach yells, 'No, run the play. Hit me.'"

"And she hit her, and coach fell back. Everybody in the entire gym was quiet. And we were quiet for a minute, and she just laid there. She jumped out, 'Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.'"

And this was in the midst of a 22-year fight against breast cancer, a battle Yow lost six years later in 2009 at age 66. 

"She led by example," Harris said. "She was a really strong person even though she was not physically strong."

Yow was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. Harris described Yow as a powerful women who could command a room with her voice. 

"She never screamed, but she had the attention of everyone around her," Harris said. "She was one of those people who was so intense, but she never yelled."

Yow was a fighter, and her foundation, in partnership with the Women's Basketball Coaches Association and the V Foundation for Cancer Research, is continuing to fight for a cure.

"She was about that awareness, for us to fight to get a cure," Harris said. "She did not let that take her down. She went down fighting."

"Just to play in this game is special, and it is an honor."

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