Pac-12 Conference

2016-17 Women's Basketball Media Guide

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11 2016-17 PAC-12 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL PAC-12 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL HISTORY E ven in its infancy, the Pac-12 Conference played a significant role in the development of women's basketball. On April 4, 1896, California and Stanford squared off at the Page Street Armory in San Francisco in the first women's intercollegiate game in the nation. And two weeks later, the University of Washington host- ed Ellensburg State in Seattle. While progress slowed through much of the first half of the century, women's basketball pioneer Carol Eck- man changed the game's history by engineering the first official women's tournament in 1969. In 1972, the tournament expanded into the Association for Inter- collegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). At that point, women's basketball was off and running. In 1978, just six seasons after the advent of the AIAW, UCLA was the first league squad to represent the Conference with a national title. The Bruins ac- complished the feat at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus in front of an AIAW record crowd of 9,351. However, UCLA was not the last Conference team to win a national crown. The 1981-82 season marked the first year that women's basketball began competing in the NCAA with the advent of the NCAA Division I Women's Bas- ketball Championship, implementing a 32-game field which, with the increasing popularity of the sport, first expanded to 48 teams and has grown to 64 teams after a second expansion in 1994. League play began in 1986-87, the first year the Pac-10 Conference began sponsoring women's sports, combining the NorPac Conference (California, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State) with the Western Collegiate Athletic Association (Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA and USC). The Conference quickly established a reputation as one of the strongest women's basketball leagues in the nation, with solid teams across the board. The Pac- 10 sent at least four teams to the NCAA Tournament nine times in the decade of the '90s, and every Confer- ence member made a trip to the Big Dance during that decade. In the new millennium, the story has proved much the same with 11 Conference teams advancing to the NCAA Tournament since 2000, six nine different teams have earned berths over the last six years and four different squads have represented in the Women's Final Four in the last four years. Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer took the Pac-10 Conference to new heights by winning a pair of NCAA titles in the 1990s. National Player of the Year Jennifer Azzi led the Cardinal to its first title in 1990, while Val Whiting guided the Cardinal to its second na- tional championship in 1992. All told, Stanford made six trips to the NCAA Final Four in a seven-year span of the '90s. The Cardinal repeated that feat with the Ogwumike sisters - Nnemkadi and Chiney - leading the way from 2008-2014. Since the beginnings of the AIAW, the Conference's most significant contribution to the success and devel- opment of women's basketball has been its legendary players. Names like Ann Meyers, Cheryl Miller, Che- rie Nelson, Denise Curry, the McGee Sisters, Azzi, Sonja Henning, Whiting, Natalie Williams, Lisa Leslie, Kate Starbird, Tina Thompson, Nicole Powell, Candice Wiggins, Briann January and the Ogwumike sisters are just a few of the Pac-12 stars who have writ- ten a chapter in women's basketball at both the na- tional and Conference level. The first of this elite group to bring the women's game into the national spotlight was Meyers, the first four-time All-American. Meyers led the UCLA Bruins to the 1978 AIAW Championship under the direction of then-first year head coach Billie Moore. Curry, also a member of the 1978 title team, earned All-America honors three times and still stands as UCLA's all-time leading scorer, male or female. After 16 seasons, Moore ended her stint as the Bruins' mentor with a 423-182 career coaching record, with 296 of her victo- ries coming at UCLA. Miller led USC to consecutive national titles in 1983 and 1984 and rewrote the school's record books. A four-time All-American, Miller won the Naismith Award three times, an amazing feat considering the honor is the equivalent of college football's Heisman Trophy. Miller was also selected to the "1980s NCAA Team of the Decade" as voted by a panel of media and coaches. In 1999, Kodak named its Silver Anniversary Team, honoring the top-10 Division I players of all-time, and Meyers and Miller were two of the 10 athletes honored. Only 29 women have ever been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mo., and six of those outstanding individuals hail from the Pac-12: Meyers (1993), Miller (1995), Curry (1997), Moore (1999), Cynthia Cooper-Dyke (2010) and leg- endary head coach Tara VanDerveer (2011). The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., announced its inaugural class of 25 inductees in 1998, honoring legends from the 107-year his- tory of the women's game. Moore, Meyers, Curry and Miller were inducted in the initial year. VanDerveer and former USC and California Coach Marianne Stanley joined the ranks in 2002, while former Oregon player and former Ducks head coach Bev Smith was inducted with the Class of 2004. On the national level, women's basketball has made tremendous strides in both popularity and attendance. The 2008 Olympic Team won its fourth-straight gold medal as Leslie became just the second basketball player ever to win four gold medals (Teresa Edwards, U.S.). Leslie was joined by former Pac-10-great Thompson on the 2008 national team. Many outstanding Pac-12 women's basketball play- ers have gone on to success at the professional level, including 10 former Pac-12 stars who are currently playing or coaching in the WNBA. Headlining that pres- tigious list of athletes who have played in the WNBA is Leslie, a five-time All-WNBA first team honoree and the 2002 WNBA Finals MVP. The first player to be placed on a team when the league began, Leslie became the first WNBA player to amass 5,000 career points and recorded the first dunk in league history during the 2002 campaign. She guided the Los Angeles Sparks to back-to-back league titles in 2001 and 2002. Fellow USC alumnae Thompson and retired WNBA star Cyn- thia Cooper helped guide the Houston Comets to four straight WNBA titles in 1997-2000. In August 2003, Thompson became just the second WNBA player to amass 4,000 points, following in Leslie's footsteps. Re- garded throughout the league as the face of the WNBA and the most dominant player in the sport, Leslie an- nounced her retirement in 2009, concluding a career that spanned 15 years. The newest chapter in Conference women's bas- ketball history was the addition of a postseason tour- nament in 2002 and the league expanded to include Colorado and Utah and. An inaugural Pac-10 Women's Basketball Tournament was held Mar. 1-4, 2002, at storied McArthur Court on the University of Oregon campus. The Arizona State Sun Devils defeated the Stanford Cardinal in the championship game, captur- ing the Conference's first tournament trophy. Begin- ning in 2003, the tournament moved to the Northern California Bay Area and HP Pavilion at San Jose for a six-year run (2003-08), which saw UCLA and the Car- dinal capture titles. In 2009, the event moved to the Galen Center in downtown Los Angeles and proved to be another exciting chapter. The tournament was com- bined with the men's tournament in 2010 and, for the first time ever, the semifinals and championship games were played at the STAPLES Center. In 2013, the tour- nament moved again, this time to KeyArena in beau- tiful Seattle with great success, drawing near-record crowds in each of its four season in the Emerald City where four different champions have been crowned. Former USC players Cheryl Miller and Lisa Leslie are two of the most decorated players in the his- tory of women's basketball. Former UCLA star Ann Meyers was the first-ever four-time All-American and led the Bruins to the 1978 AIAW National title.

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