UTRGV Basketball Head Coach Teaching Players to Eat Healthy

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EDINBURG – In this year’s Heart of the Valley’s last episode, the main boss for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley men’s basketball team says he’s using the sport he loves to craft a legacy; one that will reach far beyond the court.

UTRGV’s Lew Hill first mastered the game as a player, then as a head coach.

He’s accomplished a lot of things most athletes only dream of. Hill has played in basketball at the college level, internationally and then decided to switch to coaching.

He says his journey at the University of Oklahoma men’s basketball team, where he helped guide the Sooners to the NCAA’s Final Four tournament two years ago, brought him to the Rio Grande Valley.

This past weekend, Hill was back at the tournament but this time he had a different mission.

“Free throws for diabetes, we’re gonna see if we can get the NCAA to come out with it,” he says. “You know, they’re on board for fighting cancer, which is great. But I think we need to try and get them on board about diabetes, as well.”

It turns out, Hill shares something in common with a lot of people in the Valley. He says he has a family history of diabetes.

“I just had a physical and the numbers came up on my chart for the first time ever,” he says.

The disease is hereditary, which means…

“I can’t even see cause’ I don’t have my glasses one. It’s just natural,” he tells us.

He says the same genes that made him a natural on the court have the potential of taking it all away.

“One of my grandmothers lost her leg to it, and now my uncle lost his eye to it,” he says. “So, you know, sometimes that still doesn’t scare you until the numbers come up for you. You know, sometimes as an athlete, we think we’re invincible.”

When asked if they think of diabetes, members of the UTRGV basketball team say they aren’t that informed about it.

But Hill says he wants to change that.

“I just want to bring awareness. I didn’t know it was so big in the Valley,” he says.

Hill says even without the NCAA, he’s still determined to lead by example. He says he’s lost nearly 15 pounds since his physical two months ago.

The coach tells us he started exercising more and eating smarter.

“Not a lot of bread – and I love bread. That’s hard,” he says.

Hill says he now wants to share his newfound knowledge of the disease with his young players, who are, in some cases, new to the Valley and our food.

Javon Levi, a UTRGV freshman from Killeen, tells us his new favorite.

“One of the main foods I eat, that I’m new to down here is chorizo,” he says. “Potato and chorizo, that’s one of the main foods I eat.”

“Same thing. They have, I think is El Pato in the Union,” says Greg Bowie, a freshman from San Antonio.

Hill stresses that even though he relates to athletes who sometimes might think they’re invincible, there is still a chance to make some changes in your lifestyle.

“I wouldn’t be here if people didn’t give me second chances,” he says. 

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