At the University of Louisville, in basketball circles at least, #35 is a number that represents greatness. Retired by the mens' basketball team, the #35 was worn by Dr. Dunkenstein, Darrell Griffith, who led the 1980 squad to a national championship and went on to play professionally for the Utah Jazz. ESPN has him rated as the #1 dunker of all time, which is astounding since he couldn't even palm the ball. Around here, he's legend.
Even though Griffith's number is retired, there's another #35 on campus. Her name is Angel McCoughtry. Hailing from Baltimore, she was recruited by Maryland but she knew that she would not see much playing time if she were to agree to play there. Jeff Walz, Louisville's new head coach, was an assistant on that Maryland team and he had formed a bond with McCoughtry through the recruiting process. When Angel committed to play for Louisville, Tom Collen was the head coach. Her freshman year, her talent on the court was apparent. She immediately made a huge impact on this Louisville squad. Tom had high hopes for her as a leader, but her attitude stood in the way. She reacted strongly to her own mistakes, as well as to the mistakes of her teammates. Collen made a tape just of her reactions to these mistakes and met with McCoughtry to show it to her privately. She said she didn't realize just how much she wore her feelings on her sleeve. After seeing that tape, she made a conscious effort to tone it down...and to encourage rather than gripe. Over the summer between her freshman and sophomore years, McCoughtry worked hard at becoming a better player. Her hard work paid off. She was the Big East Player of the Year in a conference with Rutgers and UConn, who are consistently highly ranked teams with talented rosters.
Walz was hired as Louisville's head coach prior to the 2007 season. He speaks very highly of McCoughtry's instincts. Those instincts have served her well. Angel spent her junior year shattering school records, which were set by...her. Entering the 2008 season, McCoughtry was only 22 points and 14 rebounds away from being all-time leaders in those categories at the University of Louisville. She has already exceeded those numbers, not even one quarter of the way into the season. She's a candidate for National Player of the Year, and word has it that she will be the #1 draft pick in the WNBA.
At the Women's Basketball games at Freedom Hall, Darrell Griffith appears on the screen. He tells the crowd that his quarter is still on the backboard. As she stands next to him, Angel McCoughtry asks, "This is your quarter?" And she heads off to put it back.