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Standing tall

By Daily Bruin Staff

Feb. 19, 1998 9:00 p.m.

Friday, February 20, 1998

Standing tall

W. BASKETBALL: UCLA honors best women’s basketball players with

By Chris Umpierre

Daily Bruin Contributor

UCLA is well known around the country for its great men’s
basketball program.

Most people know about the 11 national championships, legendary
coach John Wooden and great players such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar,
Reggie Miller and Bill Walton who have graced Pauley Pavilion with
their collective presence.

But few know about the stellar history of the UCLA women’s
basketball program.

This history will be displayed and honored on Saturday, when the
Bruins take on the USC Trojans at 2 p.m. in Pauley Pavilion. At
halftime, the UCLA women’s basketball program will honor the
1977-1978 national championship team and the program’s 15 greatest

"A lot of people know about the history of the men’s program,
but the women’s history is pretty stellar as well," assistant coach
Pam Walker said, who has not only coached the last eight years, but
is a former Bruin star.

The top 15 players have been selected as follows, in no
particular order: Anne Meyers, Denise Curry, Anita Ortega, Dianne
Frierson-Fowler, Sheila Adams, Nicole Anderson, Anne Dean-Gardner,
Dora Dome, Mary Hegarty, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Dr. Karen Nash,
Rehema Stephens, Necie Thompson, Sandra Van Embricqs and Natalie

"When you look at the list of the 15 greatest players, you see
that those are some terrific players on that list.

"Most people don’t even know that Jackie Joyner Kersee (Olympian
track star) played basketball at UCLA. She didn’t just play, she
was terrific."

Kersee was known as a defensive stopper when she played, from
1980-1984. But she did contribute on the offensive end, averaging
9.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

Kersee, who is arguably the greatest female athlete of all time,
is not the only celebrity who will attend on Saturday.

"I am overwhelmed at who’s going to be here," head coach Kathy
Olivier said. Olivier has been involved in the program as a head
coach or assistant for 12 years. "I am in awe. Hopefully our
(current) players will understand what this means."

The team’s current All-American candidate, Maylana Martin, who
one day hopes to make the honored list, understands what it means
to have these legendary Bruins at the game.

"It means a lot just to have them there," Martin said. "They
paved the way for us. They did something that no other UCLA team
has been able to do (win a national championship). It’s going to be
fun to meet them."

Olivier knows exactly how well these Bruins played in their
heyday. She played against most of them while playing for UNLV and
Cal State Fullerton between 1978 and 1982.

"To be honest, I played against all of them … I’d like to
forget that time because they all kicked our butts," Olivier said.
"They were awesome back in their time."

But before one speaks of the 15 greatest players of all time,
one needs to talk about the coach that made most of these players
into the players they were. Legendary coach Billie Moore was at the
helm of the program for 16 years. In 1978, her first season at
UCLA, she captured the program’s first and only national title.

"Without her, UCLA women’s basketball wouldn’t be where it is
today," said Olivier, who was an assistant to Moore for seven

"She’s a phenom. She has done so much for women’s basketball –
not just for UCLA, but everywhere. She is someone I look up to as
much as I look up to my mother."

Among Moore’s many impressive stats are her 296 wins, which put
her near the top for most victories in women’s basketball history.
She also took the Bruins to the NCAA tournament for six years.

"She’s nationally known and nationally respected," Walker

"A lot of coaches even now look to her for guidance to help
build their programs – both men’s and women’s."

Anne Meyers and Denise Curry are two of the most prominent
members of the all-time team. Both have left an indelible mark on
UCLA women’s basketball history.

Meyers, a point guard, averaged 17.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per
game in her Bruin career. Those were numbers that put her in both
the Naismith and UCLA Basketball Hall of Fame. She was also
selected 1978 women’s basketball College Player of the Year when
she led her squad to the title.

Meyers is currently a commentator for the Women’s National
Basketball Association on NBC and also does play-by-play for other
women’s basketball games on ESPN.

Denise Curry was Meyers’ front-court mate. Curry dominated in
her four years at UCLA, averaging a school record 24.6 points and
10.1 rebounds per game on her way to 3,098 points, also a school
record. Like Meyers, she is an inductee into both basketball Halls
Of Fame.

Curry is currently a head coach at California State

"I just remember Denise always complaining," Olivier said. "I
remember turning to her and telling her, ‘What are you crying about
… ?’ She was a machine.

"I remember Anne (Meyers) saying to me in my freshman year when
I was frustrated, ‘It’s okay, you are going to be good someday.’
UCLA women’s basketball was big time."

Natalie Williams, another prominent player, played more recently
in the program.

From 1990-1994 Williams scored on opponents at will. Her 20.4
career points per game rank her second all-time only to Curry. Her
12.8 boards a game put her as the UCLA record holder. For her
spectacular play, Williams was selected Pac-10 Conference Female
Athlete of the Decade in February of 1996.

Williams’ Bruin career didn’t stop at basketball, as she
excelled at volleyball as well. She is the only Bruin to ever
receive All-American awards in those two sports.

Although Williams has stopped playing volleyball, her storied
basketball career has been reborn as an All-Star in the American
Basketball League for the Portland Power.

"Anne and Denise were four-time All-Americans," Olivier said,
when asked to pick the best players to ever come out of the
program. "They made everyone around them better.

"Natalie Williams has to be up there also because of her sheer
athletic ability. Right now she will probably get the MVP of the
ABL, which is amazing for someone who came into UCLA really a
volleyball player. She’s got to be up there with Anne and

But the list of stellar Bruin women’s hoops players doesn’t stop
with these three, or even with the 15 selected for Saturday. It
also contains the many role players who also helped the

These players’ contributions to their alma mater haven’t stopped
on the basketball court, as they have continued to contribute to
the program. Some have elected to continue their careers on campus,
as has Tami Breckenridge, a UCLA assistant athletic director. Some
just return every now and then to lend a hand, like Williams, who
returns to help out the post games of some of the forwards on the

These players haven’t stopped contributing to the program just
because they no longer wear blue and gold on the court.

"We have been surrounded by people from that championship team,"
Walker said.

"Certainly their continued involvement and support in our
program has led us to the point where we are starting to see some
success of our own now. It is all built on what they did in the

This support has helped the current Bruins make some history of
their own, as they have raced out to the best start to a Pac-10
season in school history as the team is currently in second place
at 10-3 in conference.

Saturday’s game is about honoring the countless contributions
these players have made to the UCLA women’s basketball program.

"It s all a part of what we think is important," Walker

"It’s not just about being on the court, its about after you
leave here continuing to be a Bruin. It’s all part of what Saturday
is all about."ASUCLA Photography

Denise Curry (l) and Ann Meyers (r) hold up head coach Billie
Moore after the Bruins captured their one and only Women’s
Basketball National Championship, back in 1978.

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