She honed her game on the courts of New York City and went on to glory in college and the WNBA. Chamique Holdsclaw said her grandmother, with whom she lived in the Astoria Houses, was strict, but allowed her to play hoops because she could see the court from the window. Those skills attracted attention from numerous colleges, with Holdsclaw ultimately choosing to play for the legendary Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee.
In June, Holdsclaw will return to Knoxville, where she will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She’ll be surrounded by familiar faces, including Mickie DeMoss, Summitt’s longtime assistant coach, and Katie Smith, Holdsclaw’s teammate on the U.S. national team and 2000 Olympic team.
“When you’re a player, you really don’t think about moments like this,” said Holdsclaw. “You’re playing the game and worrying about your teammates. To look back at all the people—this is for the people who helped me along the way. This is for all little girls who, like myself, were told they couldn’t do something because it was the boys only.”
She added, “It’s not where you’re from; it’s where you’re going with hard work and discipline. It’s special in so many ways.”
Holdsclaw won three NCAA National Championships at Tennessee and was a four-time All-American. She said being in Knoxville among friends will be “tremendous.” In the recruiting process, Holdsclaw wasn’t sure if she could adapt to the South, but when Summitt spoke of the sisterhood she’d find, she took the leap. Looking back, the bonds were even more powerful than she could have imagined.
She laughs that today people assume she’s from Tennessee. No matter where she’s living, make no mistake, Holdsclaw is a native New Yorker.
“We are basketball,” said Holdsclaw. “Growing up in the inner city, you’re drawn to basketball…We used to travel…to other boroughs. It’s such a rich history. Growing up in that environment fueled my interests and really helped to grow my game. I played against some amazing people.”
In recent years, Holdsclaw, 40, has been honest about her battles with depression. She is an outspoken advocate on mental health issues, and living her truth has enabled her to have an impact on many lives.
“My life today involves being transparent and being available,” she said. “I wanted to give a voice and I see it’s making a change.”