KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Retired professional basketball player and current Old Dominion University women’s basketball coach Delisha Milton-Jones was destined for greatness.
“When I was in college, in undergrad at UF, I think there were moments when I just played the game and I played it hard. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just played. Through playing hard and giving it my best effort, I would win awards and one trophy I won, in particular, was the Wade Trophy. And that’s dedicated to the top senior in Women’s basketball. Little old me from Riceboro, Georgia, I won that award,” Milton-Jones said.
From there, she’d go on to be a two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time WNBA champ with the Los Angeles Sparks, and now head coach of the Old Dominion’s Lady Monarchs. But the crown of her storied career is her induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
“My initial reaction? I burst out in tears. I cried. When Carolyn Peck [College Basketball Analyst] called me and told me what she was calling for, I was speechless and I felt like the weight of the world was lifted off of my shoulders. And I got choked up.”
But this wasn’t an honor Milton-Jones envisioned for herself.
“There is one individual who is special to me in my life who saw this coming and that was my husband. I can remember early on in my career in the WNBA and he said you are going to be a Hall of Famer one day and I am going to help you get there.”
Milton-Jones recalled her time as a Lady Gator and going up against the Lady Vols and beloved coach Pat Summitt in the late 90s.
“Well, I have a little bit of PTSD every time I come back to Knoxville because while I might have performed well we lost, with a big ole’ L attached to our foreheads, because they were just that good,” said Milton-Jones, “I often tell the story about how, even though I wasn’t coached by Pat Summitt, I was coached by Pat Summitt because while we were playing, I would sit there and lock eyes whenever she was talking to her players. I felt like she was talking to me too. I was soaking it all in because I understood who she was and I understood how great she is. So while she was teaching them, I wanted her to teach me too.”
The lessons she did learn, though, throughout her life and career have been immeasurable.
“I would say to any little girl that sees me that anything is possible and it doesn’t matter your circumstances, how good or how bad. How favorable or unfavorable. I came from very humble beginnings. We were poor but we didn’t know it. We didn’t have running water in the house… So for me, being from those circumstances and to make it out on the other side. These moments that you may face in life that are rather defeating or deflating, don’t let them define you.”