Aggie women's coach headed to Hall of Fame
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Coaches Gary Blair of Texas A&M and Jim Foster of Ohio State headline the 2013 women's basketball Hall of Fame class.
Joining them are Jen Rizzotti, Peggie Gillom-Granderson, Annette Smith-Knight and Sue Wicks. The class was announced Monday night during the U.S. women's basketball Olympic team's exhibition game against Brazil on Monday night.
"That's a heck of a class," U.S. women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma said. "As you get older people get inducted who you have a connection with. Coaches like Jim and Gary have maintained a high quality of work at different schools."
Blair has won over 620 games in his 27-year coaching career and is one of three coaches to lead two different teams to the NCAA women's Final Four, including his current team Texas A&M, which won the national championship in 2011.
"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. "The roll call of the 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."
Foster has won 765 games in his career and is just the second college coach to win at least 200 games at three different schools -- Ohio State, Vanderbilt and St. Joseph's.
Rizzotti helped UConn to its first national championship in 1995 and a perfect 35-0 record. She had 1,540 points, 637 assists and 349 steals in her career at Connecticut and was honored as The Associated Press player of the year in 1996.
However the impressive numbers aren't what has stuck with Auriemma most about his former player.
"The intensity level and passion she played with is what I remember, she inspired more players, more kids to play basketball than you can even imagine -- for that alone she deserves to be in the Hall of Fame," said Auriemma, who coached Rizzotti at UConn. "Forget her career as a player, championship, Final Four, her inspiration is what I'm going to remember most."
Since graduating, Rizzotti has had quite a career as a coach, building Hartford into a perennial NCAA tournament team.
"What a tremendous honor," said Rizzotti of making the Hall of Fame. "I was pleasantly surprised when I got the phone call. It's so cool my mentor is in it. The numbers, the wins and losses are great, but to me what matters the most was that I could be a great role model. Tell kids anything is possible."
Gillom-Granderson starred at Mississippi and is the Rebels all-time leading scorer (2,486) and rebounder (1,271). She joins her sister Jen Gillom as the only siblings in the Hall of Fame.
"It's so awesome. This is amazing, my mom just can't stop smiling at all the accomplishments my sister and I have made together," said Jen Gillom, who is an assistant on the U.S. Olympic team. "She's always been my idol and someone I can look up to and also strive to be better than. That's what made me the player I am today. I always strived to take away that name of being Peggie Gillom's little sister. I'm so glad we can share these honors together."
Smith-Knight helped guide Texas to a perfect 34-0 record and national championship in 1984. She's the Longhorns all-time leading scorer with 2,523 points.
Wicks, who played for Rutgers, holds the school record for points (2,655), scoring average (21.2), rebounds (1,357) and blocked shots (293). She went on to a successful career for the New York Liberty in the WNBA.
The six will be inducted next June at the Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.