Brenda VanLengen interviews Valerie Still.

In November 2023, Executive Producer Brenda VanLengen and the If Not for Them crew welcomed several highly decorated guests to the beautiful MOKAN Basketball facility in Lenexa, Kan., for three full days of interviews. That list included 1969 CIAW National Champion Patricia Ferguson, 1976 Olympian Juliene Brazinski Simpson, and Kentucky women’s basketball legend Valerie Still.

The week started with Simpson, who helped the U.S. women’s national team win a silver medal as co-captain at the first Olympic games. She was also co-captain of the 1975 Pan American team that won a gold medal. She played collegiately at John F. Kennedy College where she was a four-time All-American and won a pair of AAU national championships.

She went on to coach at the University of Cincinnati, Arizona State University, Bucknell University and Marshall University before being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2023 with her Olympic teammates.

Still, who holds the all-time scoring and rebounding records, at the University of Kentucky also joined us. As a Wildcat, Still was a WBCA All-American and Kodak All-American. Then, as a professional player, she won a bronze medal at the Jones Cup in 1980, a silver medal there in 1982 and a pair of ABL Championships in 1997 and 1998. She was also an eight-time Italian League All-Star.

Off the court, she earned a master’s degree in African and African American Studies from Kentucky and a Ph.D. in sports humanities at The Ohio State University. We are lucky to have her as a consultant on this project, helping to uncover the untold stories of women of color.

Our final guest on Day 1 helped to organize the men’s team that practiced against the 1976 Olympic team in Warrensburg, Mo. More on him to come! 

Jessie Banks, who played for the All-American Red Heads from 1954-59, joined us for Day 2. The Red Heads barnstormed across the country playing upwards of 200 games each season – often against men! Imagine the stories she has! 

Today she is recognized as the most influential person in the creation of women’s athletics at Colorado State University-Pueblo. She began coaching women’s basketball and volleyball there in 1966. She also coached softball, and track and field at CSU-Pueblo where she hosted the first-ever AIAW small college national basketball tournament.

Patricia Ferguson was another one of our esteemed guests. After serving in the Army at Presidio base in San Francisco, she applied for a basketball scholarship at West Chester State College. The Rams hosted the 1969 CIAW Championship and capped an undefeated season with the program’s first title. She was recognized as MVP too. She later went into law enforcement with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Academy.

Some of our other guests included Lynn Hickey, Sylvia Nadler and Chris Voelz. Hickey played for Ouachita Baptist and coached at Kansas State where each of her five teams advanced to the postseason. After posting a 125-36 record with the Wildcats, she took over as Director of Athletics at Texas-San Antonio. Nadler is a historian for the Wayland Baptist Flying Queens. They are essential to our story, winning 10 AAU national titles. Voelz played at Illinois State before a lengthy career as an administrator, fundraiser and advocate for women’s sports with stops at the University of Oregon, the University of Minnesota, and Billie Jean King’s Women’s Sports Foundation among others.

Photos from these interviews are featured on the Gallery page. For those who would like to support this project and have their names displayed on the If Not For Them website and included in the credits of the documentary series, you can Join the Team

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