UGA’s McClain makes hoops HOF

Katrina McClain, Georgia Basketball’s first-ever National Player of the Year in 1987 who went on to become a three-time U.S. Olympian, was elected Monday to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Katrina McClain, Georgia Basketball’s first-ever National Player of the Year in 1987 who went on to become a three-time U.S. Olympian, was elected Monday to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

NEW ORLEANS, La. — Katrina McClain, Georgia Basketball’s first-ever National Player of the Year in 1987 who went on to become a three-time U.S. Olympian, was elected Monday to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Hall’s Class of 2012 was announced in New Orleans in association with the NCAA men’s Final Four.

“It’s always good to feel like you’re part of a family,” McClain said. “Knowing from the past, my best friend (and Cairo native) Teresa Edwards was inducted last year, she talked about how great the Naismith family is and how great the people from the Hall of Fame treat you. This is a wonderful feeling and I feel so honored.”

McClain’s basketball resumé is as distinguished as virtually any player in women’s basketball history. She enjoyed immense success at every level ­from high school to college to international and professional.

“There is a large contingency of people, both in this country and worldwide, who think Katrina McClain could be women’s basketball’s best power player ever,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “I hear that expressed over and over again when I talk with coaches who actually coached her or coached against her. Katrina’s accomplishments on every level speak for themselves. They don’t need someone to trumpet them. She will go down as one of the all-time greats and induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame only validates that assessment.”

McClain, a 6-foot-2, forward/center from Charleston, S.C., first earned national acclaim as a standout at St. Andrews High School, where she was a three-time all-state performer. McClain led St. Andrews to a 30-0 record and a state championship as a senior and also led the South Carolina Junior Olympic team to the 1982 national championship.

During her four seasons at Georgia from 1983-84 to 1986-87, McClain helped the Lady Bulldogs compile a 116-15 record while finishing as NCAA runner-up in 1985 and SEC Champions in 1984 and 1986. McClain was a consensus All-America selection in both 1986 and 1987 and became Georgia’s first National Player of the Year honoree as a senior. She also was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 1984 and SEC Player of the Year in 1987.

McClain owns Georgia’s career field goal percentage record, connecting on an amazing 62.0 percent of her shots from the floor as a Lady Bulldog. In addition, she also ranks No. 3 in points (2,195), No. 2 in rebounds (1,193), No. 2 in free throws made (449), No. 2 in free throws attempted (616), No. 2 in field goals made (873), No. 9 in field goal attempts (1,407) and No. 2 in blocked shots (290). During her National Player of the Year campaign, McClain established five season records that still stand: points (796), points per game (24.9), field goals made (310), free throws made (176) and free throws attempted (240). She also owns the top three season field goal percentage marks in UGA history.

McClain began establishing herself as one of the top players in the world while still playing at Georgia. During the summer of 1986 following her junior season with the Lady Bulldogs, she helped lead the United States to two major international titles with gold medal performances at both the Goodwill Games and the World Championships.

McClain went on to become the second woman (joining Edwards) and third player overall (joining Edwards and David Robinson) to represent the U.S. in basketball in three Olympic Games. She was named USA Basketball’s Female Athlete of the Year in both 1988 and 1992.

McClain was the leading scorer for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team, which won the gold medal in Seoul, South Korea.

McClain will be officially enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame during ceremonies Sept. 7 in Springfield, Mass.

EX-NBA STAR MILLER LEADS LATEST HALL OF FAME CLASS: Joining McClain in the HOF will be five-time NBA All-Star Reggie Miller.

The five-time All-Star joined longtime NBA coach Don Nelson and college standout Ralph Sampson on Monday as part of a 12-member class that will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September. Miller’s sister, Cheryl, was enshrined in 1995.

Miller was at home when he received the call a couple days ago that he had gained entrance to the exclusive club. He quickly called his sister, one of the pioneers of the women’s game.

“I can still hear her screaming in my ear,” Miller said with a smile.

Miller often recalls the story about how his sister would beat him in games of one-on-one growing up. It wasn’t until he’d grown to 6-foot-7 and could block Cheryl’s shot that they finally quit playing those driveway pick-up games.

Miller certainly earned the trip in his own right.

After a standout career at UCLA, he became one of the best perimeter shooters in the history of the game. He was part of the 1996 gold medal-winning Olympic team and played more games with one franchise than any player except John Stockton and Karl Malone.

He also caused untold fits for the New York Knicks, for years the biggest rival of his Pacers.

The night at Madison Square Garden that Miller scored an improbable eight points in 8.9 seconds, almost single-handedly winning Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, is chronicled in the Peabody Award-winning documentary, “Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks.”

The club in Springfield, Mass., now includes McClain, four-time NBA champion Jamaal Wilkes, longtime college referee Hank Nichols and the All-American Red Heads — the female version of the Harlem Globetrotters.

The newcomers were joined by five members of the class who already had been announced: Nike co-founder Phil Knight, ABA star Mel Daniels, seven-time NBA All-Star Chet Walker, Olympian Don Barksdale and Lydija Alexeeva, who led the Soviet Union to two Olympic gold medals.

The class will be inducted during a ceremony scheduled for Sept. 7.

“I was sitting on my back porch, smoking a cigar, when I got the call,” said Nelson, a five-time NBA champion as a player and the winningest coach in league history.

“It was a great moment for me. I’m the luckiest man in the world,” Nelson said. “I’ve been involved with the game of basketball for over 60 years, and I’ve never had a bad day, even when we lost games. They’ve all been great days.”

The 7-foot-4 Sampson was one of the most dominant college players in history, a three-time national player of the year who led Virginia to the Final Four. He was the first overall pick in the NBA draft and a four-time All-Star before injuries finally slowed his career.

McClain was dealing with her kids at home when she learned she had been inducted in the Hall of Fame. The two-time All-American at Georgia helped the United States win Olympic gold in 1988 and 1996, and the bronze medal in 1992, blazing a trail for future WNBA stars.

The son of a Baptist minister, Wilkes was a two-time NCAA champion with UCLA and a three-time NBA All-Star. His jumper was so smooth that announcer Chick Hearn called it a “20-foot layup.”

Nichols refereed 10 Final Fours and six national championship games before coordinating officials for the NCAA, while the All-American Red Heads entertained millions of fans over the course of six decades, breaking untold social barriers along the way.

“It’s a very special time for people who have been involved in the game for a long time to be in the presence of those who have already been in inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo said.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino, whose team was ousted by Kentucky in the Final Four on Saturday night, was among the finalists who were passed over by the committee.

Also missing out were four-time All-Star Maurice Cheeks, former Celtics and Rockets coach Bill Fitch, four-time All-Star Bernard King and longtime college and NBA coach Dick Motta.