Originally published in SLAM 26
The 6th Man: Admittedly, I’m glad I didn’t write this directly after the Nykesha Sales “record breaking” incident. Back then, my anger was still raw, and I would have been very, very mean. Trust me. Now, I just feel sorta sad for the participants, for the game of basketball and for my sister Elena, whose season’s tickets to the sideshow that UConn’s women’s basketball has become aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. (Although she probably feels differently.)
Believe it or not, I’m not here to trash Nykesha Sales. Apart from this indiscretion, she’s a great role model, one who found herself trapped in a whirlwind of the patronizing, feel-good ’90’s. Too bad she’ll forever be known for getting caught up with her own stats, long after someone else comes along and breaks her record. And it’s too bad that UConn, a program for which she has done so much, chose to taint her fabulous collegiate career the way they tainted Kerry Bascom’s.
Who’s Kerry Bascom, now Bascom-Poliquin?
Here are some facts: As a senior for Epping Middle High School in Epping, NH, Kerry Bascom averaged 29 points, 17 rebounds, five assists and three blocks per game. During her high-school career, she earned five varsity letters in hoops, six in softball, two in volleyball and one in soccer as—get this—the goalie for the men’s team. She was also an honor roll student and the ESPN Scholastic Sports All-American in ’87.
In her four years at UConn (’87-88 through ’90-91), Kerry Bascom played in 120 games—17 fewer than Nykesha Sales—and averaged 18.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg, nearly two assists and one steal per. Even though she came off the bench during her entire freshman season, Bascom managed to set the UConn women’s scoring record at 2,177 points through sheer grit and determination. Had Bascom’s squad played inflated schedules like the ’90’s Lady Huskies, Sales wouldn’t have had a chance in hell of breaking Bascom’s record.
As my sister Elena—the season’s ticket holder, remember—puts it: “She carried that program on her back into national prominence. If it wasn’t for Kerry Bascom-Poliquin, there would be no Nykesha Sales at UConn.”
Apparently some UConn mucky-muck decided that Sales was a far worthier record holder than Kerry Bascom, for what reason I cannot fathom. Listen, folks: Kerry Bascom has no more records to set in her future. This is it. Done. Sales’ entire pro career is still in front of her. Sure sports are unfair sometimes, but so is life, y’know?
Without question, the folks at UConn are gonna say they asked Bascom-Poliquin and she gave her blessing to their misguided attempt to “make things right,” but surely that’s because Bascom-Poliquin was, is and always will be a team player.
It’s a real shame she’s been punished for that.
P.S. You know, I was just checking the stats, and I realized that Nykesha is only 580 rebounds behind Rebecca Lobo for that record. Maybe UConn could wheel her ass out for the next few seasons so she can break it, too. Hey, she deserves it, right?