Playing For Real
UNM Aussie Athlete and Philanthropy Phenom Wows on the Court and Beyond for the Love of his Mum
By Hilary Mayall Jetty
Posted August 6, 2015
Any fan of Lobo men’s basketball recognizes Hugh Greenwood as the gifted point guard with the long blond hair, Australian accent and pink ribbon tattoo. That tattoo will always reflect his devotion to family, and represent a legacy of giving back to a community far from home that welcomed and sustained Hugh and his sister, Josie.
They started young, shooting hoops at home in Hobart, Tasmania. Their father, Mike, had played water polo and “Mum” Andree was an accomplished basketball player and coach. Even when diagnosed with breast cancer, she insisted that her children pursue their dreams, inspiring them with her strength and courage. Hugh attended the prestigious Australian Institute of Sport before enrolling at UNM in 2011. Josie is finishing her sophomore year as a Lady Lobo.
Lobo student-athletes traditionally donate thousands of hours of community service annually. Mindful of his mum’s struggle, Hugh was drawn to the UNM Cancer Center. By early 2014, Andree had been in remission for several years. She and Mike spent as much time as possible in Albuquerque, thrilled to watch their kids compete. Then came a devastating diagnosis—secondary breast cancer, affecting her lungs. A new battle against the disease began.
Hugh, Josie and his longtime girlfriend, former Lobo cheerleader Kjiersten Straub, explored options for creating a significant tribute with lasting benefits. “Hugh always wanted to do something more, and he loves New Mexico as much as those who were born here,” Kjiersten explained. “As soon as we found out about his mom, we started brainstorming.”
Pink represents the fight against breast cancer, and a pack is the fiercely supportive unit of wolf, or lobo, social life. Pink Pack, also known as the Hugh Greenwood Family Fundraiser, was established in October 2014 at the UNM Foundation to further breast cancer research, outreach and patient care at the UNM Cancer Center. Promotion through social media and Lobo Athletics helped it reach $8,000 within four months.
“I had two main reasons for setting up Pink Pack—honoring my mum and doing something for everyone affected by this disease,” Hugh said. “Plus, Lobo fans are the best, and this community has always supported Josie and me. I put heart and soul into it. If you’re passionate, then others will be.”
This attitude parallels his athletic commitment. Lobo Men’s Basketball Head Coach Craig Neal said Hugh takes training and competition seriously, showing leadership on and off court. Hugh faced a serious personal challenge in January, when the team played the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) Rebels. Thunderbolts of hate from an anonymous Twitter account hit Hugh and Andree. Trash talk is common in sports, something he was used to, but attacking his mum was unforgivable. Everyone in the arena was stunned; an explosion of support for the Greenwood family went viral, silencing the rogue Tweeter.
Coach Neal helped Hugh focus and channel his energy, and he played one of his best games, scoring 22 points as the Lobos edged out the win. When a CBS Sports reporter asked about the obvious intensity of his game, Hugh referenced those hurtful messages as motivation. Nationwide media accounts of his graceful handling of the situation triggered a torrent of Pink Pack donations, including one from UNLV’s booster club and a $10,000 gift from N.M. Gov. Susana Martinez’s inaugural fund.
“UNLV is our worthy rival, but it’s unfortunate that one fan can be such a negative reflection,” Hugh remarked. “You never know who these people are or when they’ll do it again. It ended up being the best thing [for the fund]—but it was tough at the time.”
Pink Pack momentum continued through the men’s and women’s Lobos Wear Pink home games, where special jerseys provided by Nike were auctioned off to benefit the fund, now approaching $53,000. Hugh graduated in May 2015, and Josie will graduate in 2017, but the Greenwoods will always be a UNM family, and Pink Pack will always symbolize their close bond with their second home.
Dr. Cheryl Willman, director and CEO of the UNM Cancer Center, lauds Hugh’s dedication. “Hugh has demonstrated tremendous professionalism through his commitment to his mother and other patients fighting breast cancer,” she noted. “We were honored to care for his mother during her time in Albuquerque. On behalf of the women of New Mexico and their families who are affected by breast cancer, we are profoundly grateful for his efforts.”
As UNM’s leader in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals in conference play, Hugh has been recognized by the Mountain West Conference three years in a row. Although the team had a disappointing season overall and did not advance in the conference tournament, Coach Neal stated, “Cancer is life changing, and what the Greenwoods have gone through shows how incredibly strong they are. Our team has learned that there are bigger things than basketball.”
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