Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Huskies of Honor Part One

By Erin Semagin Damio

STORRS, CONN. -- I recently had the opportunity to attend the “Huskies of Honor” ceremony at Uconn. The women’s basketball program honored the 10 All-Americans that have graduated from the program with plaques and banners inside Gampel Pavilion. The list included Kerry Bascom, Rebecca Lobo, Jennifer Rizzotti, Kara Wolters, Nykesha Sales, Shea Ralph, Svetlana Abrosimova, Swin Cash, Sue Bird, and Diana Taurasi. Coach Geno Auriemma was also honored with a banner and plaque.

At the ceremony, after a game against Colorado State University, each honoree made a short speech, her accomplishments were listed, and her banner was unveiled. The current Uconn team was able to be a part of the ceremony by pulling the covering down from each banner.

The players were all thrilled to be a part of the ceremony. Jennifer Rizzotti was one of many who expressed the same sentiment.

“I think it’s an honor for all of us,” Rizzotti said. “I think all of us feel that being a part of this has done a lot for our lives. It’s tough to be singled out as only one of 10 because I think so many great players have gone before us or after us that deserve the same recognition, so I feel honored to be up here with nine other great players, but I think probably all of us would say that more important was being a part of what we had here. The teammates that we played with and the championship that we won will probably always mean more than an individual award.”

Over the next few days (leading up to the Uconn-Tennessee game in Hartford January 6) I’ll be posting the players’ speeches in their entirety from the event, as well as information from their careers, and other interesting stuff pulled from the events of the ceremony. This is the first installment.

Kerry Bascom

Unfortunately, Kerry Bascom’s acceptance speech was not recorded. However, it is important to honor and remember Bascom, who was the first All-American in the women’s basketball program at Uconn.

Bascom played at Uconn from 1987 to 1991…finished her career as Uconn’s all-time leading scorer with 2, 177 career points…Led Uconn to its first Big East championships in 1989, 1990, and 1991…Three-time Big East Player of the Year, member of first team, and member of all-tournament team…Kodak first team All-American in 1991 when she led Uconn to its first Final Four appearance…

Earned many other accolades, like Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance Collegiate Female Athlete of the Year in 1991, and was a member of the gold medal team in the World University Games in 1991…Bascom’s banner was unveiled by freshman guard Jacquie Fernandes…Not her speech, but here’s some of what Bascom and others had to say…

Kerry Bascom: “I think to be put in a class with all the women that are here with me tonight, trying to compare myself – no, they were much better than I was. So to part of that tradition…”

Jennifer Rizzotti was trying to explain what her University of Hartford team needed to become break through to the next level and finally said, “We’ve got to get Kerry Bascom.”

Rebecca Lobo said Bascom was instrumental in her decision to attend the University of Connecticut, saying that she had wanted to help build a program, but she “didn’t want to build it from scratch.”

“I loved to watch her play,” Lobo said. “It was kind of how I played in high school. I wanted to play somewhere where I could shoot threes, it wasn’t just rebounding and blocking. That’s exactly what she was. I wanted to have a little bit of my game be what hers was.”

Rebecca Lobo

Kerry Bascom laid the groundwork, but Lobo is often cited as the player to put Uconn basketball on the map…Uconn student—athlete from 1991 to 1995, and a first team All-American in 1994 and 1995…also a Rhodes scholar at Uconn…

Led Huskies to first undefeated season and national championship in 1994-1995, when she was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player and the National Collegiate Player of the Year…Big East Conference’s Player of the Year in 1994 and 1995…

Drafted to New York Liberty as part of the inaugural WNBA class and played seven WNBA seasons…currently does women’s basketball reporting for ESPN…Lobo’s banner was uncovered by Uconn freshman center Tina Charles…her speech:

“I’m going to be as short as possible because my soon-to-be-2-year-old daughter is crying her eyes out over there, but I just want to say thank you very much, especially to all the fans. I remember playing all my home games right here in Gampel Pavilion for my four years here, and I’m very thankful for this.

“I’m most thankful for the placement, and who I have on each side of me – Kerry Bascom who started it all here at the University of Connecticut and just embodies everything that Connecticut basketball is all about, and the player next, Jen Rizzotti, who has embodied the heart and soul of what Connecticut basketball is all about.

“And thank you very much to Coach Auriemma. When I was here, every day, for the most part, he told me I was the worst post player in America. I’m just happy that he just told me that this year he has the five worst post players in America.”

Jennifer Rizzotti

Jen Rizzotti played at Uconn from 1992 to 1996, and was point guard on the undefeated 1994-1995 team…

First team All-American in 1995 and 1996…1995-1996 National Collegiate Player of the Year…1995-1996 Big East Conference Player of the Year…Dean’s List student at Uconn

Played professionally with the Houston Comets and New England Blizzard…currently coaches at the University of Hartford, where she is the winningest coach in school history…Uconn freshman guard Meghan Gardler unveiled Rizzotti’s banner…her speech:

“Rebecca’s a tough act to follow, but my only hope is Kara’s after me, so I think I’ll be alright.

“I just want to thank my family, my parents that are here, my husband and my son, and probably my most loyal fan ever, my brother Tom. I just wanted to thank the fans here at Gampel, and all the fans that supported us throughout the years, the players that went before us that paved the way, my teammates…couldn’t have done it without you J.J. …

“C.D., and Tonya, and Coach Auriemma, you built a program the right way here obviously and I plan to model everything I do after you guys in Hartford, because I’m so proud to be a former Husky. Thank you for building a program and having me be a part of it… Thanks and good luck!”

Kara Wolters

Kara Wolters was also a member of the undefeated 1994-1995 team, playing at Uconn from 1993-1997…garnered first team All-American honors in 1996 and 1997…

Wolters was the National Collegiate Player of the Year in 1997…also the Big East Conference Player of the Year the same year…Big East Championship Most Outstanding Player in 1995 and 1996

Wolters played professionally in the ABL for the New England Blizzard and earned a gold medal as part of the United States Olympic team in 2000…currently works for WTIC Radio, where she does play-by-play for Uconn games…banner was unveiled by another Uconn “big,” freshman Kaili McLaren…Wolters’ speech:

“I’m at a loss for words after Jen Rizzotti! Unbelievable! Wow! I’ll be quick – I know the young guys can’t wait to get the microphone back there.

“It’s an honor to be a part of our inaugural class. The thing about it is that so many great players have come through this program, and … just to represent this amazing place, it’s just such an honor.

“Coach Auriemma has not only developed us as basketball players, but he’s developed us as people, as women, as we go in our directions… It’s not just a basketball program, it’s family, and everything that he’s taught us on-the court, off-the court, has really increased the respect I have for Kerry Bascom, for Meagan Pattyson, and the way that the younger guys have us to lean on – it’s a family. It’s a sisterhood, and I honor the chance to be a part of this sisterhood at Uconn, and these guys have our support up there. Thanks you guys!”


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