KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ticha Penicheiro has discovered a different way to hand out assists now that her playing career is over.
Rather than setting up teammates for easy baskets, Penicheiro is guiding the next generation of players in her new career as an agent. The former Old Dominion and Sacramento Monarchs point guard headlines the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame class that will get inducted Saturday.
“I just wanted to stay close to the game,” said Penicheiro , a four-time WNBA All-Star. “This is my way of paying it forward. At the end of the day, basketball gave me more than I could ever imagine. I wanted to see the game evolve and continue to get better.”
Penicheiro is part of a Hall of Fame class that also features Ruth Riley, an Olympic gold medalist who led Notre Dame to the 2001 national title and played on two WNBA championship teams.
Other inductees include former Women’s Basketball Coaches Association CEO Beth Bass, former Tennessee women’s athletic director Joan Cronan, former NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee chair Nora Lynn Finch and former players Carolyn Bush Roddy and Valerie Still.
The Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), which governed women’s college athletics before the NCAA took over, will be recognized as a “trailblazer of the game.”
Penicheiro won a WNBA title with Sacramento in 2005 and led the WNBA in assists seven different seasons. She played in the WNBA from 1998-2012 and ranks second in league history in career assists, behind only Sue Bird.
She developed her passing skills while growing up in Portugal playing against boys. Penicheiro also learned a few tricks from watching Magic Johnson.
“He was my idol growing up,” Penicheiro said. “I didn’t really have any female role models besides my mom. It was back in the 80s and 90s. It was not like I could put on YouTube. We didn’t have the internet. At the end of the day, what I saw was Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.”
Penicheiro now is trying to be that role model she didn’t have. Penicheiro says she represents about 30 players, including Kayla McBride, Courtney Vandersloot and Megan Gustafson.
“I don’t just look at myself as an agent,” Penicheiro said. “I look at myself as a mentor and try to help this generation really move forward from the college situation to the pros.”
Riley was The Associated Press national college player of the year and the Final Four’s most outstanding player in 2001. As a pro, Riley won WNBA championships with the Detroit Shock in 2003 and 2006, and she was named the WNBA Finals MVP after the first of those titles. She also helped the U.S. win gold at the 2004 Olympics.
“I hope that people look at my career and say that I played the game the right way, that they saw the joy and passion I have for the game and that I used the platform of basketball for something greater than itself,” said Riley, who is now part of the Miami Heat’s broadcast team. “This game has taken me around the world and has taught me some incredible lessons. I just want to pass that on to the next generation.”
Cronan was the Tennessee women’s athletic director from 1983-2012, a stretch that included all eight of the Lady Vols’ national championships. She also was women’s athletic director at College of Charleston for a decade.
Finch was the inaugural chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee from 1981-88. Bass helped lead the WBCA and also assisted in women’s basketball marketing endeavors while working for Nike and Converse.
Still played at Kentucky from 1979-83 and remains the school’s career leading scorer and rebounder. Roddy is a women’s basketball pioneer who led the Wayland Baptist Flying Queens to consecutive AAU national championships in the 1970s.
“There’s not enough words in the English language to describe how you actually feel,” Roddy said of her induction. “You pick and choose a few of the words, but awesome comes to mind. Phenomenal comes to mind. Unbelievable comes to mind. There are so many words, but words don’t really describe or tell the actual story.”