Alumni Angle: Sheryl Swoopes on Texas Tech

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In 1993, Sheryl Swoopes and the Texas Tech Lady Raiders won the NCAA Championship. Swoopes, the only Texas Tech player currently in the WNBA, was named the 1993 National Player of the Year and the 1993 NCAA Final Four MVP after setting an NCAA Championship game record with 47 points. Ten years later, Swoopes looks back at her NCAA memories and gives her scouting report of this year's team.

No. 2 seed Texas Tech advanced to the Elite Eight in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, but fell to Duke by a score of 57-51.

WNBA.com spoke with Sheryl Swoopes before the start of the NCAA Tournament.

Sheryl Swoopes of the Houston Comets
Bill Baptist/WNBAE/Getty Images
Have you been following this year’s team?
I’ve been trying to follow Texas Tech pretty regularly this year. I think they’re playing really well. I went down there a couple of weeks ago. We had our ten year reunion from winning the championship in ’93, and I told them that I couldn’t think of a better time, a better place or a better team that deserves to win the Final Four than Tech, especially with it being back in Atlanta which is where we won it in ’93.

I think they’re playing extremely well right now. Plenette Pierson (senior, forward/center) is an incredible athlete, and hopefully she’ll go to the WNBA and really contribute there. Jia Perkins (junior, guard), I think is playing well, and Natalie Richie (junior, guard) too.

They’re a great team, but not only are they a great team, I think Coach [Marsha] Sharp and her staff do an incredible job of recognizing the talent that they have and getting the most out of each and every player. Coach Sharp is a great person and so is her coaching staff. I absolutely enjoyed playing there when I played there, so I try to follow them and keep up with them as much as I possibly can.

What are your memories of playing in NCAA Tournament?
Winning the championship would definitely have to be my favorite memory. In ’93, I think it was so much fun because first of all, no one even really knew where Texas Tech was, where Lubbock, Texas was. We weren’t supposed to be at the Final Four. We were definitely the underdog. And it was Iowa, Vanderbilt, Ohio State and Texas Tech. It was like, Iowa will win, o.k., Iowa got beat. Vanderbilt will win; Vanderbilt got beat. Ohio State will win, and then we ended up beating Ohio State. So, I think it was so much fun because no one thought we could do it. And we believed in ourselves. We got there, and we weren’t satisfied with just being there. We wanted to win it all. We wanted to bring it back home. And then after we did and we came back home, the fans that were at Jones Stadium to meet us and greet us, you would have thought it was a professional football game, there were so many people there and everybody was excited about it. And I think what we did in that single year alone in ’93 completely changed the outlook on women’s basketball, and I definitely know it changed the women’s basketball program at Texas Tech.

How would you characterize this year's team and how are they different from your championship team?
I think in a way we’re probably similar in that when I played, we liked to get up and down the floor. We liked to push the ball and run the ball a lot, and they probably do that a little more than we did because I think they have more overall athletes on their team than we did. But I think on our team, we had better shooters.

But the biggest difference that I can see in the team she has now and the team that we had when we won the championship is that every single player on our team when we played – whether they started, whether they played ten minutes or whether they didn’t play at all – everybody was into the game from the time it started until the time it was over. You could go back and look at the tape, and you would see the entire bench standing up and cheering and getting into it. And I’ve seen a few games they’ve played this year, and I don’t see that from their bench. I don’t see that from some of their players that aren’t getting to play as much, and I don’t think people understand how important that is. I don’t like calling them bench players because I think everybody matters and everybody’s important, but I don’t think they understand the importance of everybody getting into the game, everybody getting involved because that does a lot for your teammates whether you’re playing or not. It gets everybody excited about it, and it helps win or lose a game. And I think that’s probably the biggest difference I see in the team that they have now and the team that we had.

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