Melissa Erickson, a former Washington basketball player, died Wednesday after a seven-year battle with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). She was 34.
A public memorial service has been set for June 21 at 5pm at Alaska Airlines Arena, or Hec Ed as Erickson and her teammates knew it when the Huskies advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight her senior season in 2001.
“Melissa loved playing the game of basketball,” said former teammate Cheryl Sorenson, who’s currently an assistant coach at the University of Portland. “She wasn’t always the most enthusiastic person about doing all of the conditioning and weightlifting and some of the other components of it. All she wanted to do was be on the floor and play.”
Erickson, a 6-foot-2 reserve forward, appeared in 92 games for UW. She was a feisty person and player, but all who knew her say her rebellious nature made them better. Even after diagnosed with ALS, Erickson was determined to make trips to watch the Huskies play and rallied a community together throughout the entire UW athletics program.
“I’ll remember her toughness and how much she loved her teammates,” said Shimmy Gray-Miller, a former UW assistant coach who’s now an assistant at Nebraska. “She was a senior when we had that great freshman class of Andrea Lalum and Gio and Giuliana Medndiola and all of those guys. She (Melissa) was the first one to make fun of all of those guys but let something happen in a game where Arizona State or somebody would try to push-up on one of those kids. She would be the first one to run and get in somebody’s face.
“Me and her used to seriously go at it. She was the anti-Husky. All of those kids were model citizens and never did anything wrong. Melissa was the wild one. She challenged me. But she made me a better coach because she helped me realize not everybody is going to be perfect and an angel. Those kids don’t really need you. It’s the ones with the wild streak, those are the ones that need you. Those are the ones that are going to help you grow…She was just different. And the way she attacked this ALS, she didn’t run from it. She tried to fight it until the very end and how can you not respect and admire that? How can that not impact your life?”
In addition to the memorial, a fifth-annual Pub Crawl will be held Aug. 24 in Erickson’s honor to raise awareness about ALS . Erickson was also an ambassador for the ALS Therapy Development Institute’s “Young Faces of ALS,” which is holding a charity event at Safeco Field on June 16.