Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Azzi all the Way, Baby!!

You Didn’t think we would let Jennifer Azzi’s induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in June go by unnoticed did ya?

It wasn’t just what she did; she was the first in so many ways for Stanford. Jennifer brought Stanford's first national championship home in 1990, with a win over Auburn on Tennessee’s floor! The Cardinal went 31-1 that year and she was the Finals MVP. She became the first Cardinal women's basketball player to earn the Wade Trophy, the James Naismith Player of the Year award, and the Honda-Broderick National Player of the Year and was Stanford's first WBCA/Kodak All-American. She earned the three national player of the year awards as a senior in 1989-90, while twice being named to the WBCA/Kodak All-America First Team (1989 and '90). And oh, she won a gold medal in 1996. Her national team went 60-0 that year. Her coach? Tara VanDerVeer. After that, she was a founding member of the ABL for two seasons before it folded, and then went on to play 5 seasons with the WNBA, plus overseas.

And she grew up in Tennessee, yet chose Stanford. She might have been regretting that choice her freshmen year when Stanford was 14-14. She and her teammates went around campus posting flyers to get fans to come to see them in Maples. (I know, I can’t believe it either.)

Azzi, ever the workaholic, would ask her coach to come rebound for her on Sunday mornings. Jennifer talks about how Tara VanDerVeer asked her to have patience and see her vision that freshmen year. "It was a moment in the gym, just the two of us,'' Azzi recalled, "and she said I know this is really hard for you. You're from Tennessee. You're used to winning. But I want you to see this vision. I want you to see my vision. Picture this place sold out, full of fans. We're going to do everything we can do as a staff ... but I need you as the leader to see this vision. I want you to see us winning a national championship by your senior year."

Give me goose bumps! Wonder if Tara would like to predict the stick market, too?
During her induction, Jennifer was characteristically humble. It's not just about me, it's about all the coaches and teammates and players and everybody that has been involved in my career," Azzi said of being inducted. "That's what I've loved about the game my whole life, that it brings people together."

So glad you went to Stanford, Jennifer, not Tennessee.

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