Weatherspoon enters Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
RUSTON — They call her Spoon.
One of the greatest point guards in the history of women’s basketball enters the most prestigious club in the sport tomorrow night when Louisiana Tech’s very own Teresa Weatherspoon is enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Her legacy as a Lady Techster will never be forgotten, and rightly so.
When the 5-foot-8-inch guard signed with Tech out of West Sabine High School in Texas, she had plenty of goals. On a personality chart she filled out as a freshman at Tech in 1984, her No. 1 goal was “to earn respect from others.”
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame – and the basketball world – is tipping their collective cap to Weatherspoon with this honor.
Legendary Louisiana Tech Hall of Fame Coach Leon Barmore, a 2003 inductee of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, is the local expert on his former point guard. Barmore does not shy away from singing her praises.
“We had Kim Mulkey at point guard for four years,” said Barmore, who coached Weatherspoon from 1984-88. “We won two national championships and then she graduates. Who is going to replace her? Lord. How do you replace Kim Mulkey?
“Well, we got the right one. We got Teresa Weatherspoon out of Pineland, Texas. When I went to see her play in high school, I knew right away that she could do it. She had so much charisma. She had great command of the gym. She could handle the ball. Tremendous defender. One of the best that we ever had at Louisiana Tech.”
Weatherspoon signed with Tech after a stellar prep career that saw her earn all-state and all-region honors three times and all-district accolades four times. She led the program to four straight district titles and a pair of area championships.
“Competitor I can tell you,” said Barmore. “She never took a play off. She never took a practice off. She never took a game off. I can tell you that in 35 years of coaching, she is the only player that never, ever let up on any play. Tremendous energy and one of my all-time favorites.”
Favorite? Hard not to be a coaches pet when you put up the resume that Weatherspoon did during her time in the Columbia blue and red.
From 1984 through 1988, Weatherspoon started 131 of 132 games and led Louisiana Tech to a record of 118-14. Tech made four trips to the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the 1987 and 1988 national championship games, falling to Tennessee and defeating Auburn.
Weatherspoon’s experience and example were critical in the run to the 1988 title, the program’s third.
“While her statistical accomplishments are outstanding, it’s her ability to lift her teammates to a higher level that sets her apart in my mind,” said Barmore following the national title win over the SEC’s Tigers. “The perfect example came in our (1988) regional title game against Texas when she took over offensively and kept us going and in the championship game against Auburn when it was her defense that ignited our second half comeback.”
Tech trailed Auburn 31-19 at the half in Tacoma, Washington, in that title game against Auburn. Ruthie Bolton, the Tigers point guard, had 16 first half points while being guarded by Weatherspoon.
“I told Teresa in the locker room that there is no way we are going to win this game if this girl keeps scoring,” said Barmore.
Weatherspoon held Bolton scoreless in the second half, forcing six turnovers by the eventual WNBA star, and Tech rallied for a 56-54 win. Weatherspoon’s eighth assist of the game on an Angela Lawson jumper with 39 seconds to play gave the Lady Techsters the final lead of the contest.
“I don’t think there is any question that I had the right player at the right time in that moment for Louisiana Tech to win a national championship and that was Teresa Weatherspoon,” said Barmore. “Not many athletes can carry the weight of a team on their shoulders and be able to deliver a performance that inspires that team to rise to meet any challenge, but that’s what Spoon did for Louisiana Tech. There will never be another one like her at Louisiana Tech.”
National Championship won. More respect earned.
Any college athlete’s ultimate goal is to win a national title. Weatherspoon achieved it. However, she did not stop there. 1988 was a year to remember. Spoon earned the Wade Trophy as the nation’s most outstanding player. Later that summer following the national title win, she earned a spot on the U.S. National Team and led Team USA to a gold medal in Seoul, South Korea.
“It’s a shining moment for all of us,” said Barmore at the time. “There are so many people at Tech, in Ruston, and all over Louisiana, who are so proud of her and what she has accomplished. If anybody ever deserved to make the Olympic team, it is Teresa Weatherspoon.”
Barmore was not the only Hall of Fame coach that sang No. 11’s praises.
“Her ability to run a basketball team makes her one of the best point guards to ever play the game,” said former Georgia head coach Andy Landers, a 2007 inductee into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. “She plays the game the way most coaches think it.”
“She was the ’Spoon that stirred Tech,” said former Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt, a 2000 inductee into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Words of respect from two of the all-time greatest coaches in the history of the women’s game.
Following her inclusion on the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team roster, Weatherspoon described herself in another way.
“I’m still the same feisty, crazy, hopping Spoon that you’ve always known,” she said.
To this day, Weatherspoon still ranks as the program’s all-time leader in assists and steals and her No. 11 jersey hangs from the rafters of the Thomas Assembly Center after being retired on January 7, 1989. She is enshrined into the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Following her collegiate career, Spoon spent eight years playing overseas before returning to the US to play for eight seasons in the WNBA for the New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks. She led the Liberty to three straight WNBA Finals appearances and was a 5-time WNBA all-star and a two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year. She was named one of the 15 greatest players in the history of the WNBA in the summer of 2011.
Tomorrow night, Spoon joins Leon Barmore and Karl Malone as Louisiana Tech legends in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“It’s pretty awesome that we have three alums in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame,” said Barmore. “I told Teresa it will be one of the greatest moments of her life; it was for me. The greatest single athletic moment of my life was when I stood up there in Springfield, Massachusetts, and was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Teresa will feel that same way. It’s a great honor, and it is well deserved.”
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