By Mel Greenberg
On Friday night, Rutgers women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in a prestigious class that also features former NBA stars Michael Jordan, David Robinson, and David Stockton, along with Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.
While Stringer's story has been well known, chronicled in her autobiography last year, and through her successes at Cheyney, Iowa and with the Scarlet Knights, here are the first of several recollections of those who knew her best.
In this post, Stringer's classmate Barb Yenchik, who was also a teammate at Slippery Rock College in Western Pennsylvania, recalls their first meeting back in 1966. She also will be part of a delegation from there making the trip to Massachusetts that includes Dr. Anne Griffiths, who was Stringer's basketball coach and remains a friend and mentor to this day; Pat Zimmerman, who was Stringer's field hockey coach, and Linda Argall, who was another classmate.
The Guru is hoping to speak with Griffiths on Tuesday and provide the interview in the next post when the nightly WNBA playoff tracker continues. There were no games played Monday night in the final week of the regular season.
Meanwhile at the bottom, the Guru has a few words of rememberance from a recent Rutgers star who is now playing in the WNBA.
The Guru now gives the space over to Barb:
"We came to Slippery Rock just days from our high school graduation, and lived in Harner Hall but on
"We did not have any classes together. I did not know her.
"Most classes were over by noon and every day I would head over to the field
house to shoot hoops.
"I played basketball in high school and it was my first love in sports.
"This is my earliest remembrance of her:
"The field house was mostly empty and I saw her on the court, shooting baskets.
"It was easy to see she was a very gifted athlete.
"Most girls during that period in time shot set shots. She was shooting a true jump shot
"She was alone so I went over and introduced myself. She said her name was Vivian but all her friends from home called called her V I.
"As we just shot around, we talked about our high school days, families, and would we be good enough to make the basketball team when tryouts began.
"We would play shooting games like H-0-R-S-E and go one on one games. I don't remember winning many of those as I was not much of a challenge for her.
"Some days we went to the pool as we both had an Aquatics class. I was the better swimmer and she was a beginner so we spent alot of time working on her skills.
"After a good workout, we would head to lunch together and back to the dorm.
"We hung out in her room and became best friends. We were just kids, sharing life experiences on own for the first time, sometimes homesick, talking about our dreams, seeing college life with eyes wide open, sharing worries about grades and our profs.
"Going to the field house every day, she attracted more attention from the guys and the pickup games became more competitive for her. She gained their respect because she could play at their level."
Recalling The Strength
WASHINGTON - Down here last week the Guru chatted briefly with former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon of the WNBA Washington Mystics, asking her what her first impressions of Stringer were the first time she was in her presence.
Ajavon was a key player on the 2007 team that rebounded at midseason to advance to the NCAA title game and a year ago was drafted in the first round by the former Houston Comets. The Mystics selected her in the dispersal draft last winter after the Comets disbanded.
Asked about the first time Ajavon met Stringer, she recalled, "“The first time I think, I was able to meet her was because my high school coach was a season-ticket holder at Rutgers and she took us to a game, and I just enjoyed the way the Rutgers team played.
"After the game, I had the opportunity to meet her and that was the first time," Ajavon said.
"What impressed me most about her was her toughness. Everyone knows the things she’s been through and how strong of a woman she is. Of course I look up to her in that manner," Ajavon added.
And as s a coach, she’s just a remarkable coach. I think we were able to turn things around two years ago because we knew we were a good team and we wanted to show that we were and especially do it for our coaches."