Growing up in Oak Ridge, I learned quickly that the folks here love their high school athletics. All it takes is one trip to historic Blankenship Field on a fall Friday night to get a sense of how this town feels about sports.
However, recently it’s occurred to me that there has been a terrible injustice to one of our own. One of Oak Ridge’s most decorated athletes has gone relatively unrecognized to my generation.
Jennifer Azzi is the athlete I’m talking about. From right here in Oak Ridge, Azzi graduated and went on to play Division One basketball at Stanford. While at Stanford, she compiled a list of accomplishments that would impress any sports junkie. Helping Stanford to win their program’s first women’s basketball national championship, Azzi was also named Final Four MVP. While this alone should be enough for her to be celebrated around town, Azzi didn’t stop there. She was named the 1990 Naismith National Player of the Year, and for those who are unaware, that’s essentially college basketball’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy. Azzi was also named Pac 10 player of the year for the 1989-90 season. She was a two time Kodak All-American for her play during the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons.
Azzi went on to be an eventual first-round draft pick in the WNBA draft.
And if that didn’t make your jaw drop, here’s the icing on the cake. In 1996, Azzi helped make not only East Tennessee proud, but her country proud as well when she and her teammates on the USA Women’s National Basketball Team won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta. Let’s face it, she wasn’t good; Jennifer Azzi was simply amazing. [Read more…]