There was no legend of UConn women's basketball until Rebecca Lobo showed up in Storrs after a legendary high school career at Southwick-Tolland Regional in Southwick, Mass.
She graduated in 1991 as the state's scoring record-holder with 2,740 points, a record that stood for almost 20 years. Although she was recruited by nearly 100 programs, she chose UConn, believing its young coach, Geno Auriemma, could transform her talent and that he might use it to start building a successful program.
At UConn:Lobo averaged a double-double (16.9 points, 10.1 rebounds) in 126 career games, but she will always be remembered for spearheading UConn's first undefeated national champion in 1994-95.
That season she was the consensus national player of the year, the winner of all the major awards, including the NCAA's Woman of the Year. She was a two-time Big East Player of the Year and a two-time Academic All-American who graduated UConn Phi Beta Kappa and was a Rhodes Scholarship Candidate.
Lobo was was the youngest member of the 1996 US Olympic Team that won gold at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta and the next year was one of the first two players to sign contracts to play in the newly formed WNBA. She played five seasons with the New York Liberty before concluding her professional career with the Connecticut Sun in 2003.
Injuries limited her as a professional. Lobo tore her left ACL and meniscus in the first game of the 1999 season against the Cleveland Rockers on June 10. She missed the rest of the season, including the playoffs after having surgery that July. She was progressing with rehabilitation until sustaining a complete tear of the reconstructed ligament Dec. 12
In 2002, New York dealt her to Houston and in 2003 she retired as a member of the Sun's first team at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Previously, Lobo had played two seasons in the Woman's Basketball League with the Springfield Spirit.
She currently works as a game analyst for ESPN's coverage of the WNBA and college basketball and was one of its sideline reporters at the 2010 Women's Final Four. She has also appeared on Sesame Street and with late-night hosts Conan O'Brien and David Letterman.
In 2008, she delivered the commencement address at UConn and has been a member of its Board of Trustees since 2004. She is co-author of a book "The Home Team" with her mother, RuthAnn, which chronicled RuthAnn's battle with breast cancer.
In 2003, Lobo married Sports Illustrated columnist Steve Rushin. They live in Connecticut with their three children.
A Hall of Fame career In June 2010, Lobo was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, the first UConn player so honored. She was preceded into the Hall by Auriemma, who helped her celebrate her day by introducing her in a video.
"No one in all the years that I've been there, has had the impact on the court and off the court, that Rebecca has had," Auriemma said. "It continues in the WNBA, as one of the founders, at UConn, as a representative and as a member of the board of trustees, and continuing to promote the game on ESPN.
"And then there is what Rebecca has done to further the role model that she is, for all the young people that looked up to her and emulated what she has always been; a great student, a great athlete, a great person, someone that I'm cherished, to have had the opportunity to work with, and to call my friend, and now to call my boss."
Lobo's speech was filled with humor and sentimentality. Among those joining her for her induction were her husband, UConn assistants Chris Dailey and Jack Eisenmann, former teammate Kara Wolters and current Temple coach Tonya Cardoza.
She was escorted to the stage by her parents.
"She's a good person who tries to go about her life without carrying an air or arrogance," Rushin said. "I'm not saying that's something people should be congratulated about; too many people get credit for doing things they should be doing in their lives, like mowing their lawns.
"But in the midst of some extraordinary circumstances in her life, she has not been affected at all. That's sometimes very hard to do when you are well known."
"It still feels like a dream to me. Much of it is still a blur. It was all such a whirlwind in many ways. I wish I had taken the time to keep a meticulous journal to help me remember it all," Lobo said last week.
Sun coach Mike Thibault said that even her one season playing for him in 2003 still resonates.
"It's pretty special," Thibault said. "She spent most of her professional career injured, but she brought the women's game into focus for many who hadn't followed it before. She helped put the UConn program on the map along with her teammates."
Thibault provided an example of Lobo's unselfishness and intelligence.
"I remember a game in San Antonio that season when she was sore and beat up," Thibault said. "I told her that we'd just place her at the top of the key and let her swing the ball, but that she could shoot any time she was open so they would quit clogging the lane against us. She came out firing and made just about every shot she took for a long stretch.
"The key was that she understood what needed to be done. She was one of the smartest players I've ever been around."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun