Basketball star Jessica Breland, a 2011 Carolina graduate and member the WNBA’s New York Liberty, has been named the 2011 recipient of the 23rd annual Honda Inspiration Award.
This award is given each year to a female college athlete who has overcome adversity to excel in her sport.
Breland was a standout in her first three years for the UNC Tar Heels. As a sophomore, she was named the ACC Sixth Player of the Year. In her junior year she played in all 35 games and started 27. She averaged 14 points, 8.5 rebounds and an ACC-best 3.1 blocks to rank seventh nationally.
In May 2009, after a history of ailments including asthma and severe allergies, Jessica visited a doctor for a sore throat that wouldn’t seem to go away. Hours of tests led to a biopsy the next day, and ultimately a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma was confirmed. Within days, doctors installed a port in Breland’s chest to administer chemotherapy treatments. Side effects ranged from severe chills and aches to hair loss, constant nausea and fatigue so debilitating there were times she could hardly move.
Forced to redshirt the 2009-10 season, Jessica gradually got her weight back up by eating as many times as she could with a plan devised by the team trainer and a nutritionist. She courageously returned to the court for the 2010-11 season. While it took some time for her to regain her full strength and capabilities, her game continued to improve steadily to where she averaged 19.5 points and 6.8 rebounds at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, helping UNC make it to the finals.