SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Rebecca Lobo was the University of Connecticut's first national Player of the Year and also its first academic All-American. So she's quite capable of writing the speech that she'll give Friday night at her Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony.
But if she needed a helping hand, her husband -- author and former Sports Illustrated columnist Steve Rushin -- would certainly be there for her.
"When I went into the Women's Hall of Fame in 2010, he didn't help me," Lobo said. "I wrote that one on the hotel stationery the night before. But it's only 5-7 minutes, so it's pretty much enough time to just thank the people you need to thank and get off the stage."
While that time will be spent thanking family, friends, and coaches who will make their way to Springfield Symphony Hall, the most emotional part will be thanking someone who will be there only in spirit: her mother, RuthAnn, who died of cancer six years ago.
That can only come from her and her heart.
"It makes me sad that she can't be here," Lobo said. "But I see so much of her, especially in my oldest daughter. My kids will be here and this is a memory they'll have forever.
"My mom would have appreciated more than anybody, because that is just the nature of moms. They are just so proud of their kids. Growing up in Western Massachusetts so close to the Hall of Fame, even though my dad was the one who took me to my AAU practices and that sort of thing, my mom … She just would have loved this. She would have loved every second of it. I think she always understood and appreciated the significance. Maybe that was because of where she was in her life, too, and knowing her own mortality. It just would have meant a ton to her."
RuthAnn Lobo was a teacher and guidance counselor in the Granby Public School system for 35 years. Her greatest passion was her family. She was Rebecca's biggest fan even as she battled cancer during her daughter's junior and senior seasons, and her biggest supporter of the dream of being inducted to the Hall of Fame which was just a 15-minute drive from their Southwick, Massachusetts, home.
"We used to have breakfast every Sunday morning and mom and dad would come over," Lobo said. "She came over (one weekend in 2011) and this was after her cancer had come back. It was when I hadn't made the cut. You find out In February. So I was eligible that year but hadn't made the cut. We were sitting at breakfast and when my dad and Steve and the kids were off somewhere, she said, 'I saw the news about the Hall of Fame.' I said, 'Mom, I'll get in some day.' And she said, 'I know. I just hoped it was this year.' Because she knew, and she passed away in July.
"As proud as my dad is, this would have meant more to my mom than anyone else. But on the upside to that is that my youngest was an infant, and my oldest was six in 2011 when that happened. Maybe my 6-year-old would have had a memory of it, but at least now they will all have memories of it and they will all be there. And my oldest two understand at least part of what it means, and my younger ones with their memories someday will understand it, and I think it will mean a lot to them."
Lobo's parents were both involved in their daughter's recruitment. Both were educators, with her father, Dennis, also spending a half-century coaching the track and cross country teams at Granby High.
She has often told the story how her mother felt UConn was more a "safety school" than one that was best for her.
"We had a regular time that we spoke during the week and her mom was pretty much on top of the whole thing," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We had a specific time that we could talk on Sunday. But then, unbeknownst to RuthAnn, we snuck another day in there without her knowing it. That was just between me and Rebecca. She always had a mischievous side to her. Still does."
That's been passed on to Lobo's children -- Siobhan, Maeve, Thomas, and Rose.
"My 6-year-old (Rose) was like, 'Is LeBron James in the Hall of Fame?'" Lobo said. "Steve said no, but he didn't have time to explain it. She said, 'Then mom is better than LeBron James.' Part of this is because my 8-year-old (Thomas), loves LeBron James. One of the reasons she said it was to get under his skin and, of course, his response was, 'No she's not.' So I'll mention her more than him."
Academic All-American or not, it sounds like Lobo's speech for Friday night will write itself.