Sheryl Swoopes needs no introduction; the Texas native has done more for women’s basketball than almost anyone. The three-time WNBA MVP was named one of 14 finalists for the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class last week.
Swoopes' list of accolades is as long as US Route 20. Take your pick when talking about her greatness: NCAA Champion, Olympic Gold Medalist, WNBA Champion. But as long as her list of accolades may be, to a group of women in Chicago, she’s simply “coach.” The Texas Tech alum is in her third season at the helm of the Loyola Ramblers women’s basketball team and in the midst of a run at the MVC title.
This year, the Ramblers sit at an even 12-12 (8-5 league) — the best win total Swoopes' team has posted since she took over the program. During her first season, the team went 11-21 and then 6-25 last year.
Already doubling their win total from last year, Loyola looks to be on the right track. Swoopes joins the likes of Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson, Yao Ming and Tom Izzo on the list of finalists for the Hall.
“It all still seems sort of surreal,” Swoopes said in a release. “I get emotional just thinking and talking about it. To be able to share this moment with my team means a lot to me. It’s special to be able to say that I’m a finalist in a class with Kevin Johnson, Muffet McGraw, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal and so many others because all of them have brought so much to the game of basketball. I’m excited, humbled and very grateful.”
Her playing career at Texas Tech was nothing short of phenomenal. While there she led the team to a 1993 NCAA Championship with a scoring average of 24.9 points per game — including a single-game high of 53. That season, Swoopes was named the James Naismith Player of the Year. She became the first player to be signed to the WNBA when the league formed in 1997, joining the Houston Comets.
During her time as a professional Swoopes became a four-time WNBA Champion, a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and a five-time All-WNBA First Team All-Star. She averaged 15.0 points per game, 4.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.0 steals during her 12-year career that also featured stops with the Seattle Storm and Tulsa Shock. She wrapped up her stellar career with 4,875 points.
“To be nominated as a Finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Jerry Colangelo, Chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, in a release. “Each finalist in the Class of 2016 has had a distinct impact on the the game we all love. Selecting the Enshrinees for the Class of 2016 will be a challenging task for the Honors Committee, but we look forward to making the announcement at the NCAA Final Four in April.”
Swoopes continues to leave her mark on future generations of stars at Loyola. The Class of 2016 will be announced Monday, April 4 at a press conference in Houston prior to the D1 Men's National Championship game.