Hugh Greenwood is a bit of a mum’s boy.
That’s why news hit the University of New Mexico senior guard particularly hard last week when he and his younger sister, Josie, who plays for UNM’s women’s basketball team, returned home to Australia to learn their mother had had a recurrence of breast cancer after she had been in remission the past four years.
“Mums is a strong woman and has battled and has beaten it once before, which means we have complete confidence she will take care of it again,” Hugh Greenwood wrote on Twitter on Friday as well-wishes from basketball fans from around the United States flowed in after the news broke in an article in his hometown newspaper – The Mercury in Hobart, Tasmania.
Mums is a strong woman and has battled and has beaten it once before, which means we have complete confidence she will take care of it again
— Hugh Greenwood (@HGreenwood3) May 24, 2014
Andree Greenwood, who was 14 weeks pregnant with Hugh when she played in the championship game of a professional women’s basketball league in Australia in 1991, received a cancer diagnosis five years ago. She and husband Michael make an annual trek to the United States to watch their children play for the Lobos and are familiar sights around the Pit and in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev., during the Mountain West tournament, where their son has gone 9-0 since arriving at UNM.
In October, Hugh announced he would grow out his already shaggy blond hair to raise breast cancer awareness before shaving it off sometime during the 2014-15 season for charity. He also sports a pink ribbon tattoo on his right hand as a reminder, a symbol he chose a few years ago after his mom was done with her first round of treatments.
“That is a very bittersweet thing,” Andree told The Mercury. “I’m very proud of what he is doing but it is also a constant reminder of what we have been through as a family. But it is very important for cancer awareness and cancer research and finding a cure for this disease that affects so many families and so many people.
“At the end of the day, as much you have your family’s support when you are going through this, it is my fight. It is something you have to go through as an individual. To make me feel better they have to keep living their lives and let me deal with getting through that.”
That is why, despite the news, Hugh went to Perth, Australia, on Friday to take part in the Australian Boomers’ training camp to try to make the 12-man roster for the national team to play in this week’s Sino-Australia Challenge – a four-game series with China – and to make the country’s FIBA World Cup team this summer.
“I think I’ve definitely improved my all-around game,” Greenwood told the Journal in an interview last week in Albuquerque. “I’m looking forward to playing more of a 2/3 (shooting guard/wing position), where I’m more comfortable.”
UNM men’s basketball head coach Craig Neal said he’s hopeful his senior leader makes the Boomers squad, although he’s being asked to do so at a different position than he’s played the past three years at UNM.
“I think it’s been different for Hugh because they sent him here and wanted him to become a point guard, and we did that,” Neal said. “Now they want him to do the other (position), so he’s kind of been put in a bad spot. But I think he’s worked on it since the end of the season, and I think he’ll be able to adjust because that’s really what he is anyway – a combo guard. He can do about everything.”
Greenwood will play more of the shooting guard role for the Lobos as a senior, the position he played in international competition before coming to UNM three years ago. It was as more of a combo guard that the young Greenwood scored 26 points against a Team USA squad full of current college and NBA players in the 2011 FIBA Under 19 World Championships.
While it won’t be as a point guard, Greenwood still thinks his dream of one day playing for Australia in the Olympics is a very real possibility.
“I wouldn’t be putting in this work, wouldn’t be going to these camps if I didn’t think I had a shot,” Greenwood said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then to prove my worth.”