Former Syrupmaid lands in Women's Basketball Hall of Fame

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Cairo's own Teresa Edwards, the most-decorated women's basketball player in the history of the sport, added another distinguished honor to her lengthy resume this weekend when she was officially inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

"She was a great player,'' said Terrell County girls basketball coach Tammye Jenkins, who was an All-American at Georgia and played in Europe at the same time Edwards was in Europe. "She was a couple of years older than me at Georgia, but she (set the standard at Georgia) and when she left she had several records.

"It's a great honor for her to (be inducted into the Hall of Fame). It says as much about her character as her athletic ability. I think it's great, especially because she is from the University of Georgia."

Edwards, the only U.S. basketball player to participate in five Olympic Games and a four-time Gold Medalist, took part in ceremonies on Saturday evening along with Leta Andrews, coach at Granbury (Texas) High School; Rebecca Lobo, 1995 National Player of the Year at Connecticut and a teammate of Edwards for the 1996 Olympics; Gloria Ray, president/CEO of the Knoxville Tourism & Sports Commission; Teresa Weatherspoon, a star for Louisiana Tech and in the WNBA who played with Edwards in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics; and Chris Weller, former head coach at the University of Maryland.

After leading the Cairo High Syrupmaids to a state championship as a senior, Edwards was a two-time All-American for the Georgia Lady Bulldogs during a spectacular four-year run that made UGA one of the nation's premier programs. Edwards helped lead Georgia to its first Final Four appearance as a freshman in 1983, to an NCAA runner-up finish in 1985 and to SEC Championships in 1983, 1984 and 1986. The Lady Bulldogs compiled a 116-7 record during Edwards' four seasons in Athens.

Edwards also began her unparalleled international playing career while still in Athens.

Jenkins said Edwards was a celebrity at Georgia.

"She was (a legend),''

Jenkins said. "She was a great athlete on the court, but she also had that mental toughness. Her mental approach to the game is what really impressed me. She was really mentally strong."

In 1984, the summer following her sophomore year at Georgia, she was the youngest member of the U.S. team that captured a Gold Medal at the Los Angeles Olympics. She was the backbone of virtually every U.S. National Team to enter a major international competition for the rest of the century. She captured additional Gold Medals in 1988, 1996 and 2000, as well as a Bronze in 1992.

In 2000, Edwards co-captained the U.S. to another Gold Medal in Sydney, giving her the unique distinction of being both the youngest and the oldest women's basketball player to earn Olympic Gold.

After graduating from UGA, Edwards also enjoyed a successful professional career with stints in Italy, Japan, Spain, France and Russia. She also played a formative role in the development of professional women's basketball in the U.S. Edwards was on the board of directors of the ABL, the first league to form after the Atlanta Olympics, and served as player/coach of the league's Atlanta Glory. She wrapped up her playing days in the States with the WNBA's Lynx in 2003 and 2004.

The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame will be the sixth Hall of Fame Edwards has been inducted into. In addition, she was a member of the inaugural class for the University of Georgia's all-sports "Circle of Honor" in 1995, she was elected to the State of Georgia's Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, she was inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, she was included in the inaugural class for the Grady County (Ga.) Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and she was enshrined in the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame last August.

Edwards will be Georgia's third representative in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Katrina McClain, the 1987 National Player of the Year and herself a four-time Olympian, was inducted in 2006, and coach Andy Landers was enshrined the following year in 2007.