More than 35 years after completing a legendary college career, one of the most storied players in University of Kentucky basketball history is headed into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
Valerie Still is part of a seven-person class that will be enshrined during a ceremony in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday. The three-time consensus All-American played for the Wildcats from 1979 to 1983 and finished her career as UK’s all-time leading scorer (2,763) and rebounder (1,525) among both men and women — records she holds to this day.
Still spoke with the Herald-Leader from Knoxville on Friday during a break from the busy schedule of events leading up to Saturday’s ceremony. She said the enormity of her most recent honor is just beginning to sink in.
“Up until now I haven’t had time to think about it, really,” Still said. “But now it’s all kind of hitting me. All the people congratulating you and just being around all the other inductees is nice. It’s like a family reunion because women’s basketball is so close-knit. You see the same people 30, 40 years later. It’s really neat.”
Still, who averaged 23.2 points and 12.8 rebounds per game during her four-year UK career, said she never put much stock in her individual numbers. But folks in Knoxville have made her take a fresh look at those gaudy stats she put up as a Wildcat.
“It’s strange to have so many people remembering things I did 30 and 40 years ago,” said Still. “I had this interview with a TV station and they were talking about me averaging a double-double. For a long time time I didn’t even know that. Just recently it was like, ‘wow, that is impressive to average a double-double.’ I really wasn’t into individual numbers and all that ... I don’t know how I did that.
“I wasn’t trying to get into the Hall of Fame, I wasn’t trying to average a double-double ... All I was doing was doing something I loved, playing basketball. Then 40 years later I’m being recognized. How often does that happen?”
It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for Still. Her son, Aaron, graduated from the United States Naval Academy on May 24 and was married a week later. Still said Aaron will miss Saturday’s induction because he’s away on his honeymoon, but she’ll have an old friend by her side. Still’s escort for the ceremony will be North Carolina State Athletic Director Debbie Yow, who during her four-year run as UK head coach from 1976-1980 coached Still as a freshman.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Still said. “It’s great to have that UK connection.”
Still went on to have a successful professional career after leaving UK. She played in Italy for 12 years, winning an Italian national championship, and upon returning to the United States led the Columbus Quest of the American Basketball League to back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998. She also played for the Washington Mystics of the WNBA before retiring from basketball.
These days Still, who moved from Ohio back to her home state of New Jersey in 2012, splits time between her day job and her passion. Still is communications director for the Palmyra School District in New Jersey. She’s also president of the Clarence B. Jones Institute for Social Advocacy, a non-profit organization established in 2017 named after civil rights leader and co-author of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. Clarence B. Jones. Still works with Jones and other leaders to, among other things, help develop programs aimed at getting young people engaged with their communities.
“That’s what I’m really into, advocacy and giving back to our young people,” Still said.
Still will return to that important work soon enough, but on Saturday she’ll be celebrated for her legacy on the basketball court. Asked why she thought it took so long for her to get the Hall of Fame nod, Still responded with graciousness.
“Everything happens when it’s supposed to and how it’s supposed to,” Still said. “It’s taken me a lifetime to get to this point ... If I would have gotten this honor any time sooner than now I would have thought ‘it’s all about me,’ and it’s really not.
“The timing is perfect. I’m appreciative and I’m humbled by it. And if I can utilize this to help some other young person then it’s well worth it.”
2019 Hall of Fame class
This year’s inductees to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame:
Beth Bass (Contributor)
Joan Cronan (Contributor)
Nora Lynn Finch (Contributor)
Ticha Penicheiro (International player)
Ruth Riley (Player)
Carolyn Bush Roddy (Veteran player)
Valerie Still (player)