January 16, 2006
By: Kevin Tresolini, Delaware News Journal January 12, 2006 When she left for Stanford University in 1989, Val Whiting was just 17 and not sure she was ready. It wasn't the cross-country move that most worried the Wilmington resident, but the physical demands of being a Division I college basketball player. "I remember like it was yesterday," Whiting said Wednesday. "I was scared out of my mind. They had given us these workouts to do during the summer, and I hadn't followed them. I thought I could play basketball every day to get ready, and that was my rude awakening. I remember going through that first two-mile [running] test and being lapped." Whiting got through that transition. She was named national freshman of the year while helping Stanford win an NCAA title. The 6-foot-2 center went on to become a two-time All-American, win another NCAA crown as a junior, and set school scoring and rebounding records. Recognition of that career came Tuesday when Whiting, 33, learned she had been named to the NCAA women's basketball 25th anniversary team by an ESPN.com panel. She is one of 25 players. Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said she was thrilled to learn Whiting had been selected. "This recognition is well deserved for Val," she said. "The one thing that I know about Val is that the bigger the game, the better she played." The NCAA sponsored its first women's basketball championship in 1982, and the team is part of a season-long anniversary celebration. It also includes players such as Old Dominion's Anne Donovan, Connecticut's Rebecca Lobo and Diana Taurasi, Southern Cal's Cheryl Miller, Virginia's Dawn Staley and Texas Tech's Sheryl Swoopes. Among those who didn't make the 25-player cut is USC's Lisa Leslie, whose national team heroics surpass her collegiate accomplishments. But it does include Whiting, who led Ursuline Academy to four Delaware high school titles. "I was very surprised and definitely flattered, when you look at the group of people with me and who they left out," Whiting said. "It's the whole history of the NCAA [which had taken over for the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women]. "This is amazing. I just wish my kids [sons J.J., 5, and Victor, 1] were a little older so they could understand." The only other Stanford player selected was Jennifer Azzi, a guard who was a senior during Whiting's freshman year and inspired her greatly, she said. "A lot of the women on that list I used to watch when I was in high school and they inspired me," Whiting said. "They were pioneers. They made me not feel weird because I was a girl and athletic or muscular or tall." Stanford was 114-16 during Whiting's four years there, and she remembers them fondly. Her 2,077 points and 1,134 rebounds set school marks. They have since been eclipsed, but she still is second on both lists. Whiting averaged 15.6 points and 10.1 rebounds in 16 career NCAA tourney games. Stanford also reached the Final Four in Whiting's sophomore year. Prior to her freshman season, Whiting had no such grand vision while enduring 6 a.m. swimming pool workouts at Stanford. "We had to get in the pool in full sweats and tread water," she recalled. "After a while, you figure out what's going on. Our goal was to win a national championship, and that was part of the preparation. "I got lucky that first year when two post players announced they were leaving, so there were just three of us - two players and me off the bench. I knew I was going to play no matter what. It was a great opportunity." And Whiting made the most of it. "You never know where you're going to stand when you get into that type of competition," said Reggie Whiting, Val's father, who now lives in Redmond, Wash., with her mother, Claudette. "But when the team did well and she did well that first year, it really gave her a lot of confidence that took her further as a player. It was really a turning point for Val." VanDerveer expected great things, believing Whiting would be just what Stanford needed after an NCAA regional final loss to Louisiana Tech the year before Whiting's arrival. "As we were leaving the gym I was distraught and said to my assistant, 'How are we ever going to beat a team like this?' " VanDerveer remembered. "She said, 'Val is coming next year.' The rest is history." After graduating from Stanford, Whiting played professionally in Italy and Brazil and at home in the American Basketball League and WNBA, last suiting up for the Minnesota Lynx in 2002. She played for the United States in international competition, such as the Pan Am Games, and was the last player cut at the 1996 Olympic Trials. Along with husband Jay Raymond, Whiting now lives in Wilmington and operates Game Shape, an athletic performance training facility on A Street near the Riverfront. She frequently attends high school games, especially those involving Ursuline, which now has another player, 6-4 sophomore Elena DelleDonne, who has gained national acclaim. Whiting relishes seeing so many young girls in the stands looking up to the high school players. "I miss being out there playing, but an honor like this makes it all worthwhile," Whiting said. "It makes you realize how blessed you were to have great teammates and great coaches."