Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame recognizes 2019 Class, headlined by Ruth Riley Hunter, Ticha Penicheiro

Photo Credit: WBIR-TV

The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony is an annual pilgrimage for women’s hoops fans as they head to Knoxville from around the country to witness history made as some of the game’s biggest and most notable names get immortalized.

This year’s class featured seven new names – including a couple that probably rang bells among those very familiar with the WNBA in Ruth Riley Hunter and Ticha Penicheiro.

Riley is currently a color analyst for Miami Heat contests on Fox Sports Sun and was drafted by the Miami Sol prior to the team unfortunately folding.

In her senior season with Notre Dame (2001), she was a Naismith Award winner and also led the Fighting Irish to an NCAA championship for the first time in its history. In her Hall of Fame speech, she acknowledged her coach in South Bend – Muffet McGraw.

She taught me that women can do it all. We can be fierce competitors, we can lead with integrity and greatness and we can prioritize our family in the process. Coach, I so appreciate your love and support over the course of my career and I am here today because of you.

–Ruth Riley Hunter, Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer

In Detroit, she won a pair of WNBA championships with the Shock and was WNBA Finals MVP in 2003. Riley also participated on the 2004 USA Basketball team that won a gold medal at the Olympics in Athens.

Among the many people she thanked were the aficionados of the game that keep it going day in and day out.

To our women’s basketball fans – your passion and support truly are the heartbeat of our sport. By showing up and speaking out, you’re proclaiming that our players, our teams and our sport matters. And for that, I am truly grateful.

–Ruth Riley Hunter, Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer

Riley mentioned many things in her speech and among them was how her faith shaped her into the person she has become – both inside and outside the realm of sports.

My faith is the foundation of who I am – and it gave me the freedom to compete without fear and it fueled my passion to use a platform I have been given to love and serve others.

–Ruth Riley Hunter, Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer

Penicheiro played her college ball at Old Dominion, which included an appearance in the 1997 NCAA Tournament final. In the WNBA realm, most remember her when she donned the black and purple of the Sacramento Monarchs. The induction of both Penicheiro and Riley into the Hall had to evoke memories of the 2006 WNBA Finals – when Penicheiro’s Monarchs defeated Riley’s Shock.

Known for her passing ability, Penicheiro currently is second all-time in assists only behind Sue Bird, who of course, is still active in the W with the Seattle Storm, but injured this season. She summed her thoughts up well on what led her to this point.

I had big dreams and I dreamed really, really crazy, but it’s not crazy (if) you do it.

–Ticha Penicheiro, Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer

I did it. I’m a Hall of Famer.

–Ticha Penicheiro, Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer

She is currently an agent, but long before that, she grew up in Portugal. Penicheiro recalled how her parents put a basketball in her position and the rest became history. As, unfortunately, remains the case today, she had to battle through gender-induced norms of “playing ball like a girl.”

They gave me a basketball when I was 6 years old and it was love at first sight. A lot of times, I would go to the playground and I had to fight stereotypes that we still fight today. I was the only girl in the middle of a bunch of boys who thought that girls shouldn’t play basketball or girls can’t play basketball. Well, I thought different.

–Ticha Penicheiro, Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer

Another one of the inductees is Valerie Still, a former All-American who is the all-time leading scorer and rebounder (woman or man) with the Kentucky Wildcats. Still said that everything was when it was supposed to happen.

I am so thankful it’s happening at this time. Any other time before this, I would think it’s all about me and something I did on the basketball court but it isn’t about that at all.

–Valerie Still, Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer

During her speech, she encouraged those that were in attendance to spread positivity to impact change in society – and that it can be found by putting others before self.

Best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service of others. And to be the change you wish to see in the world. I encourage each one of you – you’ve done the successful thing. There’s a lot of successful people in this building tonight – be significant.

–Valerie Still, Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer

Create one pure positive-powered thought and be the change you wish to see in the world.

–Valerie Still, Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer

Carolyn Bush Roddy, who was a two-time NJCAA All-American who won national championships with Wayland Baptist in Texas also was inducted.

Also inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame was Beth Bass, the former CEO of the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association. In addition, Joan Cronan also went in. She spent almost three decades as the athletic director at the University of Tennessee during the legendary run of championships won by the late Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols. Nora Lynn Finch also was enshrined after she was the former senior associate commissioner for ACC women’s basketball and spent much of her career with North Carolina State.

Recognized as a “trailblazer of the game,” the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women had several players – including Nancy Lieberman recognize. The AIAW was the governing body for women’s college athletics prior to the NCAA handling those duties.

Among those in attendance for the festivities was former Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick, who was noted as having received the biggest ovation from the crowd in Knoxville.

Warlick was let go as Tennessee’s coach after her team was eliminated in the first-round of the NCAA tournament amid much speculation that she would be succeeded by Louisville coach Jeff Walz, who decided to stay with the Cardinals.

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