Coaches Gary Blair (Texas A&M) and Jim Foster (Ohio State) and players Peggy Gillom (Ole Miss), Jen Rizzotti (Connecticut), Anne Smith-Knight (Texas) and Sue Wicks (Rutgers) were introduced on Monday as the 2013 Class of Inductees to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame during the halftime of the USA versus Brazil exhibition game at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The group will be formally introduced on November 13 in Waco, Tex., at the 2012 State Farm Tip-Off Classic between reigning national champion Baylor and Kentucky with induction ceremonies to follow on June 8, 2013 at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.
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Peggy Gillom-Granderson Gillom, a two-time All-American during her four years as a starting forward at the University of Mississippi remains to this day the school's all-time leading scorer (2,486 points) and rebounder (1,271). She is one of just two players in Ole Miss history to have scored more than 2,000 career points and grabbed more than 1,000 career rebounds.
Gillom, who was inducted into the Ole Miss Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996 and into the Mississippi Sport Hall of Fame in 1997, returned to her alma mater, where she served as an assistant, and later an associate, coach for more than 20 years. She was also an assistant coach for the gold-medal-winning U.S. Senior Women's National Team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Gillom was preceded into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame by her former Ole Miss coach, Van Chancellor (Class of 2001), and by her sister and fellow Ole Miss All-American Jennifer Gillom (Class of 2009), who is currently serving as an assistant coach to both the WNBA's Washington Mystics and the London-bound U.S. Women's Olympic Basketball Team.
“I am truly humbled,” said Peggy Gillom, in a statement released by Ole Miss. “It still hasn’t sunk in yet. I am honored to be inducted with all of these other Hall of Fame class inductees, some that I’ve played against and some that I’ve coached against. All I can think about -- to be in the Hall of Fame along with my sister Jennifer and along with so many other great people – is that God is not through with me yet.”
|Jennifer Rizzotti (left) gives some pointers to Ariel Massengale while serving as head coach of the USA Basketball U19 team that took the gold at the FIBA U19 World Championships in July 2011. Rizzotti, who had twice previously served as a coach to gold-medal-winning developmental teams, was named the 2011 USA Basketball National Coach of the Year for her contributions to the success of the program. Though head women's basketball coach at the University of Hartford for 13 years, Rizzotti is being inducted into the Women Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2013 for her achievements as a player at the University of Connecticut and later as a pro. (Photo courtesy USA Basketball.)|
Jennifer Rizzotti Though she has served as head coach of the University of Hartford Hawks for the past 13 years, during which she has led her team to four America East regular-season titles, five America East Tournament championships, and six NCAA Tournament appearances, picking up conference coach-of-the-year honors three times and compiling a career record of 255 wins to 150 losses, Rizzotti was nominated to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame for her achievements as a player.
As a point guard for the Connecticut Huskies, Rizzotti, a two-time Kodak All-American and the Big East Player of the Year, as well as an Academic All-American, tallied 1,540 career points and set season and career records for both assists (637) and steals (349). As a junior, she led the Huskies to their first national championship with a perfect 35-0 record in 1995, and as a senior, she won both the Wade Trophy (1996) , the Francis Pomeroy Naismith Award (best player under 5-6) and the Associated Press National Player of the Year honors.
Rizzotti began her professional career with the New England Blizzards of the now-defunct American Basketball League, where she spent three seasons, twice earning All-Star honors (1997, 1998). Drafted into the WNBA in 1999 by the Houston Comets, Rizzotti earned WNBA championship rings in both 1999 and 2000.
Traded to the Detroit Shock for Anna DeForge in April 2001, she was quickly picked up by the Cleveland rockers, where she played from 2001 through 2003. Though she was once again selected by the Shock in the 2004 WNBA Dispersal Draft, Rizzotti decided to call it quits on her playing career to devote full time to coaching.
In addition to her achievements at the helm of the Hawks, Rizzotti has led USA Basketball developmental teams to three gold medals, first as an assistant coach to the 2006 U18 National Team, winners of the FIBA U-18 World Championships. Promoted to head coach of the 2010 U18 National Team that won the FIBA World Championships for their age group, USA Basketball honored Rizzotti as its 2011 National Coach of the Year after she took the helm of the U19 National Team and guided them to gold at FIBA's 2011 U19 World Championships in Chile last July.
Annette Smith-Knight Smith-Knight overcame a devastating knee injury and reconstructive surgery to lead the University of Texas to its first NCAA championship in 1986 and to become the program's all-time leading scorer (2,523 points; 19.3 ppg). But well before that historic title run, Smith-Knight had distinguished herself as one of the best players ever to wear Longhorn orange and white. In 1982, as a freshman, she helped the Longhorns to a second-place finish in the AIAW National Championship and in the next two years led the team to Elite Eight finishes in the NCAA Tournament (1983, 1984), winning Southwest Conference Player of the Year in both her sophomore and junior seasons and was named a first-team All-American as a junior in 1984.
But Smith-Knight, who had also won gold with USA Basketball at the 1983 World University Games was forced to the sidelines in 1985 by her knee injury. Returning the following year as a red-shirt senior, she not only anchored Texas coach Jody Conradt's first NCAA championship team but also finished her collegiate career as Texas' all-time leading scorer, ranking fourth in career rebounding (966) but also amassed a school-record 33 consecutive games in double figures.
Her collegiate career behind her, Smith-Knight turned to coaching, returning to the University of Texas as an assistant to Conradt from 1993-2003. After the birth of her second child, Smith-Knight moved into an administrative support role and continues to serve as the University's Director of Community Service. She was inducted into the University of Texas Women's Hall of Honor in 2002 and into the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
“I am very honored," said Smith-Knight in a statement released by the University of Texas. "This is a privilege that comes with a lot of surprise, too. At my age, you start to think that all of the awards and honors are in the past. This announcement brings such a smile to my face and brings a flood of emotions and wonderful memories of my career at Texas.”
In the same statement, Conradt, a Hall-of-Famer in her own right, commented on Smith-Knight's selection to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame: "There's no one more deserving of this honor than Annette. Everyone who loves UT, and especially those who have followed the women's basketball program, should be elated because this is a long, overdue honor. She was the first building block of our program, the first superstar to commit to Texas, and she had a tremendous career that was sidetracked by a devastating injury. Until that point, she was recognized as an extraordinary talent, and following her rehabilitation, she was recognized for her work ethic, determination and character. She came back to be the real inspiration for our perfect season."
Sue Wicks A three-time Kodak All-American and 1988 Naismith and U.S. Basketball Writers Association National Player of the Year, Wicks is one of the most decorated players in Rutgers history. She still holds the school's all-time records for career points (2,655), rebounds (1,357), scoring average (21.2 ppg), rebounding average (10.9 rbg), blocks (293), field goals made (1,0091) and attempted (2,009), and free throws made (473) and attempted (641).
Even more impressive, her tallies in scoring and rebounding set the records not only for the women's basketball program, but for the men's game as well. She was inducted into the Rutgers Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and is one of just two female Scarlet Knights to have her jersey retired.
Playing at a time before Rutgers had joined the Big East, Wicks, who led Rutgers to a 105-21 record two Atlantic 10 Tournament titles, and three NCAA Tournament appearances of which two ended in the Elite Eight (1986, 1987), was a three-time Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year (1986-88), two-time outright MVP of the Atlantic 10 Tournament (1986, 1988) and co-MVP of the conference tournament in 1987. She was also named to the NCAA All-East Regional Teams in 1986 and 1987.
Wicks, who earned gold with USA Basketball at the 1987 Pan-American Games, spent 15 years playing professional basketball overseas, until being selected in the first-round of the WNBA's inaugural draft in 1997 by the New York Liberty. Wicks, a native New Yorker, spent six years with the Liberty, leading her team to four Eastern Conference titles, before retiring in 2003. A WNBA All Star (2000) and winner of the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award (2000), Wicks remains the Liberty's all-time leader in blocked shots (155) and rebounds (788) and was inducted into the Liberty's "Ring of Honor" on July 28, 2011.
Gary Blair Blair's induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame will be the fifth for the coach who helped elevate Texas A&M women's basketball to national prominence and is also a member of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame (2011), the Southland Conference Hall of Honor (2009), the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjack Hall of Fame (2008) and the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame (2002). The honor also makes Blair Texas A&M's first basketball hall of fame inductee from either the women's or the men's program.
The 2007 Big 12 Coach of the Year and a two-time national finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year Award and the winner of the New York Athletic Club's Winged Foot Award (2011), Blair took an Aggie women's basketball program that seemed perennially mired in the basement of the Big 12 to its first national championship in 2011. In his nine seasons at the helm of the Aggies, he has amassed a a 212-0- record (.702), including seven consecutive 20-win seasons since 2005, and has guided his team to a school-record three conference titles in the past six years and seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances, finishing in the Sweet Sixteen or better in four of the last five years and in the Elite Eight in 2008. Blair also recruited Texas A&M's only first-team All-American in Danielle Adams.
However, Blair's success has not been limited to his stint at Texas A&M. He is one of just three NCAA Division I women's basketball coaches ever to lead two different programs -- Texas A&M and Arkansas -- to the Final Four and one of just six coaches in NCAA history to take three different schools (Texas A&M, Arkansas and Stephen F. Austin) to NCAA Tournament appearances. He led the Razorbacks to the WNIT Championship, steered the Lady Jacks to four NCAA Sweet Sixteens, helped Louisiana Tech to two national championships as an assistant coach, and even won three state championships as a high-school coach at Dallas South Oak Cliff High.
Blair surpassed the 600-career-win mark in 2011, becoming just the 22nd coach in NCAA Division I history to achieve that distinction. His career record of 620-253 (.710) places Blair among the top 15 coaches in DI history in career victories and among the top 15 in winning percentage.
"The honor is humbling, and I feel I should be thanking players, assistant coaches and administrators for their belief in me instead of receiving accolades for what I consider a team award," Blair said in a statement released by Texas A&M Athletics. "The roll call of people that are in the Hall of Fame is mind boggling. So many of them have helped shape my life in coaching as mentors, role models and players I have had an opportunity to coach or compete against. Their legacy, the love of the game and the love of my players keeps me driven. I am thankful to continue to Build Champions here at Texas A&M."
Jim Foster Jim Foster is another coach who has known success on many levels: With 765 career wins to his credit, he is only the second college coach -- men's or women's -- to win 200 games or more at three different schools (Ohio State, Vanderbilt and St. Joseph's). Moreover, every student athlete who has ever played for Foster at each of those three schools has gone on to earn her degree.
In his 35-year career as a head coach, the past 10 of them at the helm of the Buckeyes, Foster has taken his teams to 27 postseason appearances (26 of them in the NCAA Tournament), including annual bids in each of the past 13 seasons, four trips to the Elite Eight, 11 Sweet Sixteen finishes, and one appearance in the Final Four. His career record of 765-294 (.722) makes him the eighth-winningest coach in Division I history.
In his tenure at Ohio State, the four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year (2005-07, 2009) has guided the Buckeyes to a school-record 10 consecutive NCAA appearances, national Top-10 rankings in five of the past seven seasons, six regular-season Big Ten titles, four Big Ten Tournament championships and three NCAA Sweet Sixteen finishes. Under Foster's tutelage, Ohio State has become one of just eight schools in Division I women's college basketball to post 20 or more wins in each of the last 10 years, and over the last eight seasons, the Buckeyes have racked up the ninth-most wins (218) in Division I.
Foster arrived at Ohio State from Vanderbilt, where he compiled a 256-99 record (.721) from 1991 to 2002. In 1993, In 1993, just two years after his arrival, Foster led the Commodores, who had never previously won more than half their conference games, to a record-setting 30-3 record, a No. 1 national ranking, the SEC Tournament title, and ultimately to the Final Four. In his 11 seasons as Vanderbilt's head coach, Foster led his squads to three more trips to the Elite Eight, three Sweet Sixteen finishes and three Southeastern Conference tournament championships (1993, 1995, 2002). The 'Dores ranked in the nation's Top 25 in 10 of his 11 seasons at the reins. While at Vandy, Foster was named the 1993 United States Basketball Writers Association Coach of the Year.
Fosters was also successful in his first head-coaching assignment at St. Joseph's (Pa.) University, where from 1978-91 he logged a 248-126 (.663) record with seven postseason appearances, six of them in the NCAA Tournament and one in the NAIA tournament. He took the Hawks to regular-season Atlantic 10 finishes in 1985, 1989 and 1990; amassed six 20-plus win seasons; and earned NCAA tournament bids every year from 1985 to 1990.
While still a relatively young coach at St. Joseph's, Foster earned 1985 NCAA Coach-of-the-Year honors as his squad won the Atlantic 10 Conference title and earned an NCAA Tournament bid with a 25-5 record.
Wayland Baptist University Flying Queens -- Trailblazers of the Game
In addition to the six individuals being inducted, the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame announced it will recognize the Wayland Baptist University Flying Queens as "Trailblazers of the Game." Only three other groups -- the All American Red Heads, the Edmonton Grads, and the former Helms/Citizens Savings/Founders Bank have achieved this distinction.
The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Board of Directors serves as both the selection committee for Hall of Fame inductees and for recipients of the organization's Trailblazers of the Game honors. Selection is based on multiple factors, including moral character, integrity, sportsmanship, record of performance, ability, national or international recognition, and contributions to the game of women's basketball.
Though the private, co-ed university continues to use the Flying Queens as their name and mascot, the Hall of Fame has singled out for recognition the five teams that --long before Title IX or the involvement of the NCAA in women's basketball -- amassed the longest all-time winning streak in the game's history, with 131 consecutive wins from 1953-1958. Their streak, which eclipses the celebrated winning streaks of the University of Connecticut women and the UCLA men in the NCAA era, began at the start of the 1953-54 season when under Coach Caddo Matthew, the Queens defeated Dowell's Dolls, 51-31. By the time their streak came to an end in 1958 with a 46-42 loss to Nashville Business College, the Queens had put together season records of 29-0, 23-0, 23-0, 29-0 and, finally, 28-1. Ten members of the Flying Queens of that era were recognized as AAU All-Americans, and two of them -- Lometa Odom and Katherine Washington -- have been individually inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, along with former players Patsy Neal and Jill Rankin Schneider, coaches Harley Redin, Dean Weese and Marsha Sharp, and team sponsor Claude Hutcherson.
Individuals can be named to the Hall of Fame as players, coaches, referees or contributors. Players must be retired from the highest level of play for at least five years before becoming eligible. Coaches must have coached the women's games for at least 20 years, while referees must have officiated the women's game for at least 10 years. Contributors must have significantly impacted the game of women's basketball to be eligible for selection.