Kara Wolters always dreamed big.
As she grew up in Holliston, Massachusetts, the daughter of former Boston College basketball star Willie Wolters picked up the game that helped her father reach his school's Hall of Fame. As she grew to 6-foot-7, maybe she could be the next Anne Donovan, an Olympic gold medalist and Hall of Fame center who would later be her coach with the WNBA's Indiana Fever.
Wolters became a star at Holliston High School and caught the eye of University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, who offered her a scholarship that she accepted early in her senior year.
In the Fall of 1993 she arrived in Storrs. But instead of showing her stuff on the court at the start, the Olympic gold medalist she needed to emulate was someone more like Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
"One of the first days on campus, we're on the track and we have to do a workout called 'The Gauntlet,' " Wolters said Wednesday. "I'm running and (teammate) Kim Better keeps going, 'You got this. You got this.' Well, I'm not thinking that.
"I start going, 'I don't want to be here. I want to go home.' But Kim kept encouraging and supporting me. I got through it, but you start to question whether you can do this. There are still times, 20-25 years later, I look back and think, 'How did I do that?' I coach my daughter's AAU team and I'm always telling her, 'Do the best you can.' I think I tried to do the best that I could do."
The result for SNY's studio analyst for UConn women's basketball was a star-studded college experience and careers on the professional and international stages. She won at all levels.
Saturday night she will be escorted by her daughters -- Sydney and Delaney -- onto a stage in Knoxville, Tennessee, to be enshrined into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame as part of its Class of 2017.
"I never could have imagined when I was young that anything like this could happen to me," Wolters said. "I mean, how could you? I get all choked up thinking about it. Sure, you dream ... I remember being 12, 13, and playing with Carla Berube with the Central Massachusetts Cougars. It's been an amazing journey and it's very humbling.
"I got the phone call from the Hall. I'm not sure how to respond or what to say, other than 'Are you sure?' "
Her resume made her a sure thing.
Wolters played at UConn from 1993-97 and still ranks eighth in points (2,141), third in field-goal percentage (62.8), eighth in rebounds (927), and third in blocked shots (370) for the 11-time national champions. The Huskies' original "Big Girl" became the first UConn player to be named to a postseason all-tournament team in all four of her seasons and was twice (1995-96) chosen the Most Outstanding Player of the Big East tournament. In 1997, she was named the Big East and the Associated Press national Player of the Year. She was also selected to the 1997 WBCA All-America team and was part of the first class inducted into the Huskies of Honor program at Gampel Pavilion in 2006. Her No. 52 has not been worn since she graduated.
UConn compiled a 132-8 record in Wolters' four seasons and won four Big East regular season and tournament titles while advancing to the NCAA Final Four twice. In 1995, they went 35-0 and won the program's first national championship.
After receiving her degree, Wolters began her professional career with the American Basketball League's New England Blizzard, based in Hartford, Connecticut. After the ABL folded, she joined the WNBA's Houston Comets and won a championship there under coach Van Chancellor. She would go on to play for Indiana and the Sacramento Monarchs before wrapping up her career in 2003.
On the international stage, she was named to the 1994 United States national team as a 19-year-old and would win gold with Team USA at the 1998 FIBA world championships and 2000 Olympics. Wolters is one of 10 women's players in history to win a NCAA national championship and WNBA title, and gold medals from the Olympics and FIBA world championships. The others are ex-Huskies Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, Maya Moore, and Diana Taurasi, along with Tamika Catchings, Cynthia Cooper, Brittney Griner and Sheryl Swoopes.
"It's hard to put into perspective," Wolters said. "To be able to represent your country and hear your national anthem, there's no way to describe it.
"It's the same with UConn. To be able to represent that program that has done so many amazing things ... I remember someone said going there that, 'You're the one percent of the one percent.' I like to think that we started something with Coach Auriemma and CD (associate head coach Chris Dailey) that they have continued to build to new heights in the 20 years since I left."
Joining Wolters in the WBHOF Class of 2017 are former Texas Tech and WNBA star Swoopes, Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Insell, referee Sally Bell, founding member of the AIAW Christine Grant, and former Southern Connecticut State coach Louise O'Neal.
She is the third player from UConn's 1995 national championship team to be inducted into the Knoxville Hall, joining Rebecca Lobo (2010) and Jennifer Rizzotti (2013). Auriemma was inducted in 2006.
"I'm really excited for Kara and it's quite an honor," said Berube, who was Wolters' teammate and classmate at UConn. Berube will be unable to attend the ceremony Saturday as she is coaching the United States team at the FIBA Americas U-16 Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
"I was talking to (WBHOF member) Natalie Williams about it as Kara and Natalie are good friends," Berube added. "Kara deserves it. She had such an awesome career at UConn and in the pros. She was the national Player of the Year, an Olympian ... It's awesome."
Wolters arrived in Knoxville Thursday. The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame building is a short drive from Thompson-Boling Arena, the on-campus home of the University of Tennessee.
She played twice on the Lady Vols' court. In 1996, she helped the Huskies end Tennessee's then-NCAA record 69-game home winning streak. And while she knew she'd be facing a tough crowd then, it wasn't much better for her about four years later even though Wolters had traded her UConn jersey for one from Team USA for an exhibition game against Tennessee. She said then that, "They sure know how to hold a grudge."
Do they still?
"Maybe I'll have to open my speech Saturday with a joke or something like that," Wolters said with a laugh.
And then talk about a dream come true.