Sparks Retire Toler�s Jersey
On Wednesday, July 5, Sparks President Johnny Buss and the Sparks organization recognized the historical impact of Penny Toler�s career both as a player and as the General Manager, in a half-time presentation that retired Toler�s No. 11 jersey.
Widely recognized as the first player to score a basket in WNBA history, Virginia �Penny� Toler began her career with the Los Angeles Sparks as the starting point guard in the League�s inaugural game on June 21, 1997 at the Great Western Forum. Originally allocated as one of the two Los Angeles franchise players, Toler retired from professional basketball in November 1999 with a combined 12 years with overseas and WNBA playing experience to become the second general manager in Sparks history.
During the 1997 WNBA season, Toler was the Sparks� second leading scorer at 13.1 ppg and finished as the team leader in free throw percentage, shooting 83.9% from the field. Toler also shot 41.7% from three-point range, ranking her second in the WNBA among three-point percentage leaders, and she finished fifth in the league in passing with 4.8 apg. Playing in her final season in 1999, Toler played in 30 out of 32 games, averaging 4.8 points and 2.2 assists per game as a valuable bench contributor while finishing fifth in the League in free throw percentage (86.7%).
Toler�s moves behind the scenes as General Manager propelled the Sparks to two championships in 2000 and 2001. She is also responsible for generating some of the biggest trades in WNBA history including a trade that brought former Washington Mystics All-Star forward Chamique Holdsclaw to Los Angeles in 2005. In another trade with Washington in March 2006, Temeka Johnson came to LA making Toler the first GM to acquire a Rookie of the Year after her rookie season.
A native of Washington D.C., Toler attended Long Beach State University where she set several school records including career assists (513) and career free-throw percentage (.795). She earned Kodak All-America honors and Co-Player of the Year/Big West recognition in 1988 and 1989 before finishing her collegiate career in 1989. Toler scored 2,193 points in three seasons of play at LBSU (she sat out the 1985-86 season after transferring from San Diego State). She then played overseas from 1989-1997 for a variety of teams including Montecchio and Pescara in Italy, Sporting Flash in Greece, and Ramat HaSharon in Israel.
Toler�s jersey is the first to be retired by the Sparks and hangs in the South end of STAPLES Center.