Minneapolis’ first Women’s Final Four saw UConn champs go undefeated

Texas A&M WBB Coach Joni Taylor

Sports Odds & Ends

The 1995 Women’s Final Four was a star-studded affair: two No. 1 seeds, a No. 2 and a No. 3 made it. Four Hall of Fame head coaches, a future ESPN commentator, and a future Hall of Famer were there as well, and two former local prep stars played in front of family and friends in their hometown for the first time as collegians. 

 Overall, it would be the first national title for Connecticut, the second all-time team to finish unbeaten in Division I women’s hoops (35-0). It was Brenda Marquis’ first-ever trip to Minnesota as well.

“We had never been in the Mall of America,” the Connecticut native, then a UConn freshman basketball player, recalled. She didn’t play much basketball that magical season, but she nonetheless played an important role on the Huskies.

“As a freshman,” noted Marquis, “my role was to be the person at practice to get our starters prepared to play. I was the one that was guarding either Rebecca (Lobo, now a Hall of Famer and ESPN commentator) or Kara Wolters most of the time. We got them better by practicing hard against them every day.”

Marquis, now Brenda Wilson, is married to Gopher Football Director of Player Development Norries Wilson. Parents of three kids, they relocated to the area a few years ago. She and her 1994-95 teammates were inducted as a group in 2008 into UConn Huskies of Honor.

Mrs. Wilson shared her experiences, fondly looking back at the first time Minneapolis hosted the Women’s Final Four. UConn fans then and now “traveled very well,” she noted. 

Upon arriving on the Lynx-Timberwolves court, “We saw our fans. We were impressed with the amount of people that had traveled [to Minneapolis]. It kind of felt like a home game for us. Obviously, being a freshman at the time [my] eyes were big and wide open.”

She still has a piece of the championship net. “It was an exciting thing to be able to go up on our ladder and cut that piece,” admitted Wilson. “Not everyone gets to do that.” 

Her advice to the players of the four final teams coming to play for a national championship this week: “Don’t go into a [hotel] room and just do nothing. Just make sure that you’re around, you’re seeing everything that you can see. You’re spending time with your teammates, your family. A time like this is the best thing and obviously [you] win together, and unfortunately, we lose together. That is part of the process.

“Just go out there and play your hardest,” she advised. “If you’re going to play [and] you’re on the court, play your hardest. If you’re not on the court, cheer your hardest. Do everything that you possibly can in your capacity on your team to help your team win.”

A community of coaches

Joni Taylor will be among thousands of coaches in town for the annual WBCA convention this week at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Taylor was named last week as Texas A&M head women’s coach after eight seasons as Georgia HC (2015-22). She was one of 12 Black female coaches who led their teams in this year’s NCAA field of 68.

Asked during the March 24 introductory press conference about her mentors or coaches she models herself after, the longtime college and pro coach said, “Pokey Chatman has been wonderful for me in terms of reaching out and giving support. [South Carolina’s] Dawn Staley is someone who I consider a mentor. I can always call her and get her on the phone.

“I think that’s what’s really special about women’s basketball,” she said, “is that our community of coaches really supports each other.”