Photo by Valerie Still
Kentucky Women's Basketball

Valerie Still: More than Basketball

January 31, 2019
2,099

The University of Kentucky is full of rich history on the hardwood. From Coach Rupp to Coach Cal, from Dan Issel to Anthony Davis, some of the greatest names in basketball have walked the campus in downtown Lexington, KY. Today however, we will look at another all-time great, Valerie Still.

Valerie Still arrived on campus in Lexington prior to the 1979-1980 college basketball season, two years after her brother, Art Still, was drafted #2 overall in the 1978 NFL draft to the Kansas City Chiefs, and her impact was felt immediately. Still played in 29 games as a freshman and averaged 22.1 points per game to go along with 13.9 rebounds per game. She was truly a difference maker on the court, and she was only just beginning.

After leading Kentucky to a 24-5 record as a freshman, Still would come back in year two and lead the Cats to another great season, finishing 24-8 and earning a birth in the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) Sweet 16. She would once again average a double-double for the Cats in the 1980-81 season, pouring in 20.9 points and hauling down 11 rebounds per game. She would also cross over the 1,000-point threshold in only her second year as a Wildcat. She would take her achievements from her first two seasons and put together one of the greatest years in UK history in 1981-82.

During her Junior year, Still would lead the Cats to a 24-8 record, and a birth in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Quarterfinals. Still would average an incredible 24.8 points and 14.3 rebounds per game and led Kentucky. The success Still managed through three years at Lexington would have cemented her as on of the greatest to ever step foot on campus. She had complied 2,063 points, just 75 points shy of Dan Issel’s all-time UK record, and 1,191 rebounds, clearing Issel’s mark of 2,078 set back in 1970. Through just three years, Still had passed arguably the greatest basketball player who ever played, at the school with the richest basketball history.

During her Senior year, Valerie Still would secure herself as one of the all-time greats in the game. She averaged an incredible 25 points and 12 rebounds, her fourth straight year averaging a double-double and would lead the Cats to a 23-5 mark, and another NCAA tournament appearance. Despite leaving Lexington without a National Championship, Still made her mark. She left Kentucky as the school’s all-time leader (male or female) in points scored, 2,763, and rebounds, 1,525. She was a three-time consensus All-American and averaged 23.3 points and 12.8 rebounds per game for her career.

The marks set by Still truly may never be broken. In the world of the one-and-done in men’s college basketball, the top players are not in Lexington, KY long enough to sniff the marks set by Still. It is not impossible for her record to eventually fall in the women’s game, where players stay in school for four seasons, but it remains unlikely. Valerie Still will forever be the name above the likes of Dan Issel, Jack Givens, Kenny Walker, and so many more. Kentucky is a school rich in basketball history, partially in thanks to Valerie Still.

Throughout her college career, Still would represent her home country on three different occasions. Her and Team USA brought home a Bronze medal in the 1980 R. William Jones Cup, as well as a Silver Medal in both the 1981 World University Games and the 1982 Jones Cup.

With the WNBA still 14 years from beginning play, Still’s best option for professional basketball was to head overseas. So, she headed to Italy, where she played for twelve seasons and wound up winning an Italian National Basketball Championship.

In 1996, Valerie Still would return from Europe and play in the American Basketball League (ABL) for the Columbus Quest. Over the next two years, the Quest would win back-to-back ABL titles, with Still being named MVP of the Championship series both times. As a result of the championships, Still was a member of the first profesional women’s team in America to be invited to the White House to meet and spend time with the President of the United States, Bill Clinton. As sport fans know, visitng the White House is a honor bestowed upon those teams in various sport leagues who win at the highest level. Although the ABL only survived a few seasons, it would pave the way for the WNBA. Still and the Quest were by far the most successful team in the league’s short history, winning both titles. Still has the honor of pinoreering that process for women’s sports in this country. Still would join the WNBA in 1999 to play one season for the Washington Mystics. Still would appear in 23 games, averaging just 12.3 minutes and 1.3 points per game over the course of the year.

In 2018, Still was up for election to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Although she did not earn election, it seems as if it is only a matter of time until she is enshrined with the other greats of the game. She has also been selected as a finalist for the 2019 class of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. The announcement for those selected will be in early February and the class will be presented at the 2019 Women’s Final Four in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Despite her vast success on the court through her lifetime, Valerie Still is far more than just a great basketball player, she is a great person. Since her retirement from professional sports, Still has become consumed with humanitarian work.

Most recently, Valerie Still has been acting as the President of the Clarence B. Jones Institute for Social Advocacy. The Institute invokes community, empowerment, compassion and unity through social service, research and education. Their work centers around envisioning growth of stronger, democratic and inclusive communities and schools that are led by diverse and empowered youth and their active engagement in cultivating positive change through thought, word, and action. In regard to her work, Still stated, As I get older my life is about significance instead of success.” She has taken the approach to life of doing whatever she is able to evoke change and progression, in hopes of making a difference for others.

In February of this year, Still will be representing the CJB and partnering with the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University presenting a presentation entitled Compassion in Action: Building a Coherent Society to the United Nations at the 57th session of the Commission for Social Development. The theme for this year is “Addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through fiscal, wage and social protection policies.”  

Valerie Still takes great pride in the work she is doing to effect change around the world. “Athletics records and achievements are based on the physical body and its limitations. Altruism, changing our world and environment, spreading peace, love and bliss is done on an energy level and is unlimited,” said Still. In 2018, she was selected for the Jefferson Awards in New Jersey. The Jefferson Awards are presented to those who demonstrate unique vision, dedication and tenacity of heroic proportion and serve as an inspiration to others in public service.

While her athletic success is of great importance to Valerie Still, she understands impacting global change is far greater. “Athletic records are made to be broken but generating an atmosphere of love and peace is always embraced. Our world today is experiencing tremendous peace lessness, fear, hopelessness, and restlessness. And people have more wealth and material things than every before, but true wealth is when you have inner peace, inner power. It doesn’t come from something external,” said Still.

Valerie Still will never be forgotten on the basketball court. Her name will always sit near, or at the top, of the record books at the school with the richest basketball history in the country. The University of Kentucky should be honored to have been the home of Valerie Still for four incredible seasons, but, they should be more honored on how she is representing herself, her family, the school, and her past in the world today. She left us with one final quote, “Success is about self. Significance is about others.” Thank you Valerie Still, not just for the impact you made on this school and this program, but for the impact you are making in our society.

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Valerie Still: More than Basketball

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