INDIANAPOLIS – Maria Stack’s teenage nephew often wears an old, tattered Gonzaga sweatshirt to his Indiana school, an old keepsake from his sweet-shooting aunt.
His teachers, quite familiar with the Gonzaga brand as the top-ranked Bulldogs attempt to win a national championship in nearby Indianapolis, say he’s hip.
It was Stack, though, who was familiar with the little Spokane school before it was mainstream.
Stack set the Gonzaga women’s scoring record as a senior during the 1984-1985 season, totaling 707 points to go with other records for assists (203) and steals (96).
In her lone season at Gonzaga after transferring from San Diego State, Stack earned the Frances Naismith Award, given to the nation’s best female basketball player under 5-foot-8.
Stack, now a 59-year-old human resource manager at a large ball-bearings company just outside Indianapolis, has witnessed the immense growth of Gonzaga since she led the then-NAIA Bulldogs to a 28-4 mark.
An All-American at Gonzaga and a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame for her brilliant career at East Columbus High School – she won the state’s Ms. Basketball Award in 1980 – said she is in awe when watching this year’s men’s team.
She hopes to make the 30-minute trek to Indy to catch a game in the coming days. The top-seeded Bulldogs (28-0) face No. 5 seed Creighton (22-8) on Sunday in the Sweet 16 at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
“They are phenomenal,” Stack said. “I love the way they pass the ball. I brag about them all the time.”
Stack was a year older than John Stockton and vividly remembers the future NBA Hall of Famer’s exploits.
“He was great at Gonzaga,” she said. “He seemed so quick, so efficient out on the court.”
When speaking of the recent stars on the Gonzaga women’s teams in its ascension as a Top 25 program, Stack is also impressed.
Before stars like Jill Townsend and current WNBA standout Courtney Vandersloot, it was Stack holding the torch.
Vandersloot, an All-American, broke Stack’s single-season scoring record in 2011 when she scored 712 points and helped the Bulldogs reach the Elite Eight.
“The height, strength, ability and skill set is so different today than when I played,” said Stack, who has since coached at the high school level. “The teams would have three or four good players. Now these (women’s) teams are strong and agile across the board.”
Stack returned to Indiana after exhausting her eligibility at Gonzaga and hasn’t returned to Spokane, but seeing the Bulldogs every March evokes fond memories.
“I just really enjoyed it,” she said. “A good atmosphere and a good senior year. I couldn’t have asked for a better final year of college basketball.”
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