UT legend Holdsclaw to speak at Character Banquet

Mar. 28—Chamique Holdsclaw, the legendary former University of Tennessee basketball star, knows all too well what character means and the ramifications it can have on the life of young boys and girls.

Holdsclaw, an ex-WNBA superstar and member of the basketball Hall of Fame, has faced challenging situations throughout her life where her character was put to the test.

Because of those challenges, Holdsclaw said she is excited about being the guest speaker next month at the 2024 Character Banquet in Crossville.

The event

is sponsored by the Crossville-Cumberland County Sports and Events

Council and will be held April 13 at the Community Complex. Festivities are set to begin at 6 p.m.

"After my playing days, I focus now on my family and speaking to people around the country," said Holdsclaw, who said she has several speaking engagements a month.

"I often talk before groups of young people and I am excited about having any impact on them."

The banquet honors student — athletes from Stone Memorial High School and Cumberland County High School. Coaches at each facility nominate players to be recognized for their values, leadership and character.

An overall winner from each school will be selected, and they will earn a $500 scholarship. The teams they play for will also receive $500.

Holdsclaw grew up with her grandmother in Queens, NY. She was an outstanding superstar at Christ the King School, where she won numerous awards and could have picked any college in the country to attend.

"I didn't mind coming South to go to school. My grandmother's family is from Alabama, and my dad's family is from South Carolina," Holdsclaw said.

"Tennessee had something none of the other schools had. You had a legnedary coach in Pat Summitt. My grandmother loved what coach Summitt had done with her program. She loved the discipline coach had in her program, and she felt safe with me going there.

"Coach Summitt was an amazing woman that led with excellence and realness. She would tell you how she grew up on a farm, and also about having a dream and working for it, and being consistent. She recruited young women from different backgrounds to come together and work for one goal."

Holdsclaw had a terrific career with the Lady Vols. She is the all-time leading scorer and rebounder at Tennessee in men's and women's basketball.

She is the all-time leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference, while helping guide UT to three straight national championships from 1996-'98. She was a four-time all-American and two-time Naismith Player of the Year.

In the WNBA, Holdsclaw was named Rookie of the Year in 1999 and a six-time all-star.

She helped guide USA Basketball to a gold medal in the 2000 Olympic Games. And the highlight of her career may have been her recent induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

"Being older, you want your kids to see the trail you blazed. I look back and am just amazed at what we were able to accomplish," Holdsclaw said.

"We won three national championships, and I have a street on campus named after me. I had my own signature shoe, and I was drafted in the WNBA. However, the big thing is I was able to accomplish a lot of amazing things through hard work and dedication.

"A lot of people dream of having a career like that, and it is a lot harder than just showing up. There are going to be some moments when you go through some challenges and adversity. But, you have to work through those things because life is going to happen."

Holdsclaw credits her grandmother for being the one who instilled in her the idea of doing the right thing no matter where you are.

And, Holdsclaw said, if you weren't doing the right thing, Grandma would let you know.

"My grandmother always had a spiritual side. Before I could go play basketball, I had to go to Sunday school, and I had to help feed the homeless," she said. "At a young age, I learned not to judge people. I was taught to listen to people and embrace them with love.

"My grandmother used to say character is not about what you do when everyone is looking. It is about the integrity you show when no one is watching. It is about being kind, respectful and honest in all situations. ... Even when no one is looking.

"You're going to meet a lot of distractions growing up. These kids know what it takes to succeed, but they also know what happens when you cut corners and take the easy way out. You get what you put into whatever you do."

Holdsclaw said one of the things she feels most passionate about is serving as a role model for young girls.

"I have a daughter and I think about her in everything I do," Holdsclaw said. "We all have a goal of what we want to accomplish on the basketball court or on the playing field. But, it is important we realize success isn't always about us winning the games, or the awards or the accolades.

"The lessons you learn from the hard work, the victories, the losses are what's important.

" I would tell young girls they're awesome, they're great. I would tell them they belong, they deserve to be here. Girls should know they are powerful."