Up From The Projects, Onto The Basketball Court
Growing up in a housing project in North Philadelphia, Dawn Staley played basketball at Dobbins Technical High School. In 1988, USA Today named the 5 foot 5 inch young woman national high school player of the year, the only player under 6 feet to win. She also managed to led Dobbins to three consecutive Philadelphia Public League championships.
Staley began her 1989-92 collegiate career when Temple associate head coach Shawn Campbell recruited her to play at the University of Virginia for the Caveliers. As a freshman, she became a starter for the team, averaging 18.5 points per game, and helped the team to a 110-21 record. This propelled the Caveliers to four appearances in the NCAA Tournament, which led to three consecutive Final Four. In her four years as a starter, she personally scored 2,135 points.
Staley earned an astonishing array of awards and honors during her college years, including 10 Player of the
Year awards. Among her titles were ACC Rookie of the Year, then ACC Player of the Year for 1991 and 1992, National Player of the Year, Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four All-Tournament, and Kodak All-American for three consecutive years. In just the 1991-92 season alone, she received the Naismith Trophy for outstanding woman collegiate player, Sport Illustrated Player of the Year, Honda Broderick Cup for outstanding college athlete of the year, and USBWA Player of the Year.
Her basketball record reflects her honorary achievements. She holds the ACC mark for career assists with 729, and captured two ACC regular season and three ACC All-Tournament titles. She holds the NCAA record of 454 steals, which now ranks sixth all-time among NCAA Division I leaders, and was named outstanding player in the 1991 NCAA tournament, even though Virginia lost in the finals to Tennessee.
After college, Staley began her professional career in 1992 playing with a team in Spain, and continued to travel the world playing in France, Italy, and Brazil. After returning to the US in 1994, she competed for the US National Team in the Goodwill Games, earning MVP for averaging 9.3 points per game and a team high 5.8 assists per game. She also played in the 1994 World Championships.