Last summer, during a photo shoot for the Inner City All-Star Classic at Gangelhoff Center on the campus of Concordia University-St. Paul, Minneapolis North Girls’ Basketball Coach Faith Patterson mentioned a statistic that was a surprise, yet it wasn’t.
“Next fall, there will be at least 10 former North players at Division I schools,” the coach said nonchalantly.
It shouldn’t be that hard to believe. After all, Patterson has guided the Lady Polars to nine straight state tournament appearances, including five titles.
Now, I usually don’t get into the hoopla associated with student athletes signing with a Division I school. It brings a smile to my face when I hear that a student will continue to play at any level. However, this statistic is something that couldn’t be over looked.
Here’s the list: Renada Blackburn (Chicago State), Tyrai Bronson (Creighton), Faith Buchanan and Daria Frazier (Wichita State), Angie Hutchinson (Akron), Mia Johnson (Michigan State), Davida Moore (Missouri State), LaRae Starr (Tennessee State), Krystal Taylor (Valparaiso), and Catrice Williams (Arkansas State).
All were on state tournament-bound teams.
Hines unknowingly paved the way
Stacia Hines got things started for Minneapolis North. The 6’-2” forward/center helped the Lady Polars basketball team capture back-to-back City girls’ basketball titles in 1987 and ‘88.
After graduation following the second championship, Hines took her shot-blocking, inside scoring and leadership skills out east and starred at Division I St. Peters College in Jersey City, New Jersey, for the next four years.
Back then, it was quite an accomplishment for a Minneapolis City Conference player. Many of the suburban players were offered Division I scholarships, but rarely were they offered in Minneapolis (or St. Paul). She was not the first Lady Polar to ever sign with a Division I school, but she was the first to do so since I started writing about prep sports in the fall of 1987.
While everyone was happy about Hines’ accomplishment, it wasn’t a preview of what was to happen immediately. It would be five more years before another Lady Polar named Brandi Decker would earn all-metro honors and go on to help lead the University of Georgia to the NCAA Women’s Final Four in 1995 and ‘96. She played from 1993-‘97.
Two years later, in 1995, sharpshooter Shonda Holden would keep the upstart ‘D’ I tradition going by signing with Northern Illinois University, finishing an outstanding career in 1999.
During Holden’s senior year at North, there was a freshmen named Tamara Moore who would help transform the Lady Polars’ Division I signings into a yearly ritual. By her senior year in 1998, Moore led the Lady Polars to their first-ever state title, played four years at Wisconsin, and then moved on to the WNBA.
The point guard on that team, Mauri Horton, followed Moore’s example with a second straight state title in ‘99 and played the next four years at Rutgers University. Both players were also named the state’s Miss Basketball during their senior years.
Another member of those brilliant teams, forward Felicia Bell, went on to a stellar career at the University of Akron.
Not bad for a city school that, despite these accomplishments, really hasn’t gotten its due. Not bad at all!