Hall of Fame Feature: Pam Gant
Sept. 26, 2017
The kid could shoot.
Pam Gant, that is.
At least according to legendary Hall of Fame coach Leon Barmore, a guy who knows a thing or two about the Lady Techsters – and the Hall of Fame.
Barmore has seen eight of his former players inducted into the Louisiana Tech Athletic Hall of Fame. On Friday night, he will be in attendance to witness the woman he calls “the smoothest shooting guard in the history of the program” become the ninth Lady Techster Legend enshrined.
Pam Gant was raised in Joliet, Illinois, a lengthy 11-plus hour drive from Ruston, Louisiana; the home of what was a rapidly growing, nationally-renowned Lady Techster women’s basketball program in the early 1980s. A natural-born shooter (and scorer), Gant recognized early on her unique ability with the basketball in her hands. She worked on perfecting her craft.
“I put a lot of hard work into my shooting,” said Gant, one was one of the top 10 prep players in the country coming out of Joliet East High School where she finished her career with an Illinois state record of 3,205 points. “I went to a lot of shooting camps growing up and when I was in high school to get it right.”
It paid off. She got it right.
Gant led the Lady Techsters to a combined mark of 125-10 from 1981-85, including three Final Four appearances and the 1982 NCAA national championship title. The sharp-shooting guard out of the Chicago area shot 55 percent from the field for her career while scoring 1,714 points.
Let that sink in. Pam Gant, a guard, shot 55 percent from the field for a career. Those are numbers that are almost unheard of in the women’s game, or the men’s for that matter.
The kid could shoot.
“Pam Gant is by far the best shooting guard we have ever had to Louisiana Tech,” said Barmore, who is a LA Tech Hall of Famer himself. “She was an unbelievable shooter. There is no question that during her time here at Tech, especially her junior and senior years, we had the best shooting guard in America. She was that good.”
Gant was a high school all-American that could have gone to any school in the country, but she chose Louisiana Tech for a lot of reasons. But she said mainly because it felt familiar.
“Ms. (Sonja) Hogg was the one doing the recruiting,” Gant recalled. “She loved to look great and make the team look great. Coming to Louisiana Tech, I just felt at home. Everyone was just no nice, and even with being so far away from home, I was never homesick after I got there.”
During her freshman season, Gant came off the bench playing behind Kodak All-American and fellow LA Tech Hall of Fame member Angela Turner (Class of 1990). Turner was as a senior that year. While Gant played in all 36 games that season, it was in a reserve role, averaging only 4.3 points per game.
Along with Turner, Tech’s starting five in 1981-’82 was a star-studded bunch that included Pam Kelly, Janice Lawrence, Lori Scott and Kim Mulkey – four of the five are enshrined in the Tech Hall of Fame with three of them in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. It was a team that led Louisiana Tech to a national championship. It was also the only time in Gant’s basketball career she was forced to wait her turn to be a star.
“I did get to play a little bit, and when I did play, I would contribute on the court,” Gant said of sitting behind Turner. “I knew I was going to get my chance to show what I could do. It was the first time it had ever happened, but I was okay with it. There was no attitude. Angela was a great player to watch, and I was learning by just watching her. That way, when it was my turn I could go out there and contribute.”
It was Gant’s patience as a freshman that paid off in the eyes of Barmore.
“Pam sat behind a Kodak All-American in Angela Turner, and then what you hope happens happened,” Barmore said. “She stayed and became a Kodak All-American herself. That speaks volumes of her character and her family by sticking with it when she had every reason to leave. Here was a girl who was an All-American in high school and was sitting behind someone. That doesn’t happen much. Now, don’t get me wrong, she played. She was one of the first ones off the bench, but Turner was pretty good too.”
Mulkey, who was a teammate of Gant’s for a few years before joining the LA Tech coaching staff after graduation, agreed that the sharp-shooting guard helped during her rookie campaign, but in hindsight, she isn’t so sure Tech shouldn’t have sat her that first year.
“I am sure Coach Barmore would agree with me, but we probably should have redshirted her until Angela Turner graduated,” said Kim Mulkey, who is also enshrined in the Tech Athletics Hall of Fame. “She would have been all-American another year because she was that good. When she finally got her chance to perform, she was as good as any shooter LA Tech has ever had. She was so quiet, yet smooth.”
With the departure of Turner and Kelly, Gant moved into a more prominent role as a sophomore during the 1982-83 campaign when she averaged 8.9 points in 32 games, making seven starts. The Lady Techsters were national finalists again that season, falling to Southern Cal 69-67 in the NCAA championship game.
“Her shot was always going in,” Debbie Primeaux Williamson, a teammate of Gant, said of Gant. “She was going to shoot, and we all knew it was going in. We had a lot of confidence in her shooting ability. Especially after Angela Turner left; that was a hole. Everybody trusted AT, and she was a lot more vocal than Pam, but one thing they had in common was that the ball was going to go in.”
The kid could shoot.
More the lead-by-example-type, Gant was a quiet, calming presence on several Lady Techster teams that included big personalities. Consistency was the key to her game more than anything, according to her coach.
“Pam was very quiet, well-spoken and well-mannered,” Barmore said. “Even as a captain she did more of her leadership with her actions and her play. She wasn’t very vocal and animated, but it was just her work habits. She was one of those players you never had to worry about.
“She came to practice and played hard, led by example and let her actions speak louder than her words. She was very clutch. You wanted the ball in her hands when the game was on the line, and she certainly produced as some of those records and stats will show.”
Gant started 31 of 32 games as a junior, shooting 58 percent from the field with an average of 16.3 points per game, including a season-high of 37 against national rival Tennessee. The next season, Gant entered her senior year as the only returning starter from the 1983-84 season and the only remaining player from the 1981-82 NCAA Championship team.
AS a senior she averaged 23.6 points, at the time a Tech record and still to this day the third most in a single season in Lady Techster history behind only Venus Lacy (24.2 in 1989-90) and Sheila Ethridge (25.2 in 1990-91). Gant earned Kodak All-American honors that season and was named a finalist for the Naismith Trophy which goes to the nation’s top player.
She helped lead the Lady Techsters to the Elite Eight each of the four seasons she donned the iconic Columbia blue. As a senior, Gant’s final game in a Tech uniform came against No. 2 ranked UL-Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana) at Fant-Ewing Coliseum in the NCAA regional finals.
ULM held Gant to only 14 points in the loss while ULM Kodak All-American Eun Jung Lee scored 18 points and added 11 assists as the Indians prevailed 85-76 before a crowd of 7,023 fans.
“She was so serious as a player,” remembers Lee, who is a long-time assistant coach at ULM. “She was so focused on the floor. She had an unbelievable pull-up jumper. That I remember. She could get all the way to the rim, or hit that pull up jumper. I never knew what she was going to do. She was so tough to guard.”
Tech looked upon Gant even more for leadership, and she rose to the occasion by setting a new Lady Techster single season scoring record at the time. During one late-season stretch, Gant scored 42 points to lead Tech to a win over No. 10-ranked Penn State on Jan. 7, 1985. She then turned around and scored 40 points seven weeks later to lead the Lady Techsters to yet another win over the No. 9-ranked Nittany Lions on Feb. 24, 1985.
Both performances still rank in the top 10 in program history.
The kid could shoot.
“What means a lot to me is that she played so quiet and smooth,” Barmore said. “She has gone under the radar with this hall of fame stuff all these years because that is kind of the way she played. You had to see her and coach her to appreciate how good she was. I’m telling you her range was better than any player that has ever played.”
Yet, she wasn’t one dimensional. She also broke the program’s single season steals record as a senior with 104 while leading Tech to a 29-4 overall record and yet another NCAA Tournament appearance. Gant ended her Lady Techster career with 1,714 points in 132 games, a remarkable career. She still ranks 13th on the Tech career scoring list.
“I know how beneficial she was and how productive she was for Louisiana Tech,” said Barmore. “You could count on her to score every game. We were going to get 20 or 30 points out of her every game, and as a coach, that was pretty relaxing to know. It wasn’t like she got 30 one night and two the next. In her final two years, she was about as consistent of a player that has ever played at Tech.”
After her playing days, Gant spent time playing overseas in Spain, Italy and Sweden. Today, she still spends time in the gym on a regular basis coaching a sixth grade travel team. But what has stayed with her more than anything since her time in Ruston is the memorable moments she helped create for the historic program.
“Being around the great players and coaching staff – it was amazing to be able to play in front of the crowds we did and represent Louisiana Tech,” said Gant. “It is beyond words. On and off the court, it was an incredible time. It has been almost 35 years, but the amazing thing is that I made it. I wish my parents were here to witness this.”
In the 1984-85 Lady Techster media guide, Gant’s bio listed her career ambition as a simple one: to be successful. She succeeded in that and much more in her time as a Lady Techster and beyond, which will be reflected when she is officially inducted into the Louisiana Tech Athletic Hall of Fame.
Barmore said it best.
“God, she could just shoot,” he said. “And the thing about her shooting is it was a beautiful shot to watch. She never had the chance to even play with the three-point shot. Just imagine the points she would have scored.”
The kid could shoot.
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