Sept. 16, 2010
Erica Westbrooks-Jemison can't say enough good things about her memories of her playing days at Louisiana Tech University in the mid-1980s.
More than 20 years after donning the Columbia blue and red uniforms and leading the Lady Techsters to the 1988 National Championship title, Westbrooks-Jemison lives almost 1,000 miles away in Grand Rapides, Michigan.
Despite the distance barrier between her and her alma mater, the Camden, Arkansas native keeps the University, the Lady Techster program and her former coaches and teammates close to her heart.
"I have nothing but positive memories about Louisiana Tech," said Westbrooks-Jemison. "It was a great experience. I loved my teammates. I loved my coaches. I loved the University.
"Coach Barmore was pretty much like a father figure to all of us. That entire staff with coach (Mary Kay) Hungate, Kim (Mulkey) and Jennifer White - it was a family."
Now Westbrooks-Jemison has her own family. Her husband Darin played basketball for the Bulldogs during his college days and the couple is kept more than busy with their three children, 12-year-old son Xavier, nine-year-old daughter Corinne, and eight-year old daughter Raven.
"Every year or every other year me and (Darin) come down to Louisiana Tech during the summer to see how things have changed," Westbrooks-Jimeson said. "However, this past summer was the first time that we brought the kids. We felt like they were finally old enough to comprehend what we told them about our time there."
One wonders if Xavier, Corinne and Raven truly realize what a star their mother was during her playing days in Ruston. It might take a die-hard, long-time Lady Techster fan who saw the 6-foot-3-inch center play from 1984 through 1988 to give a true picture of her significance in LA Tech women's basketball lore.
In a program that has seen so many All-Americans, so many 1,000-point scorers and so many wins, Westbrooks-Jemison is one of only two LA Tech players to ever earn the honor of being named the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
The win didn't come easy. Tech trailed by 12 as they entered the halftime locker room.
"I remember us sitting in the halftime locker room before the coaches came in and we weren't felling sorry for ourselves," Westbrooks-Jemison recalled. "There were four seniors and we knew we were never going to get another chance. We didn't know if we were ever going to play organized basketball again. As far as we knew this was our last time and we knew we had to leave everything on the court (in the second half).
"We also knew what it felt like to be second place. We had lost the year before in the national championship game. We didn't like that feeling. It was not a fun feeling. We wanted to know what it felt like to be national champions. We came out in the second half and left it on the court. We played hard."
And the Lady Techsters - behind the play of Westbrooks-Jemison - played well. While her teammate Teresa Weatherspoon was putting the defensive clamps on Ruthie Bolton over the final 20 minutes, Westbrooks-Jemison scored 16 second half points including the a bucket with 2:13 to play that gave Tech its first lead of the entire game.
She wasn't done. After Auburn pulled to within 55-54 and had possession in the waning seconds, Westbrooks-Jemison blocked the potential game-winning shot by Dianne McNeil with only six seconds to play to secure the program's third national title.
"I tell you what else I remember. That was the first and only time in my career I played for all 40 minutes," she said. "I had never had to do that before. None of us ever had to because we had really good players. Everyone on the team was really good. I usually put in 20 hard minutes in a night. That day, I didn't come out."
Twenty-two years later, Westbrooks-Jemison still cherishes all those memories. However, as proud as she is of the past, she is just as happy about the present status of the program under her former teammate Weatherspoon.
"I am so happy for her and so happy for the team," she said. "All they can do is benefit from all of her experience that she has to offer. She brings so much to the University. All of her Olympic experience, all of her professional experience and the fact she was coached by Coach (Leon) Barmore. I just believe that she brings all of that back to the University and the program. I am so happy for her and the team."
When asked if she had watched the Lady Techsters NCAA Tournament appearance against Florida State this year, Westbrooks-Jemison was quick to reply.
"You bet I did. You could just tell that the team has already come so far. They are beginning to show (the Lady Techster pride). There is more to that program that we grew up in then just coaching. I think that is what she is bringing back - a sense of family, a sense of pride, a sense of tradition. I think all of that showed in the game."
The same pride that Westbrooks-Jemison and her Louisiana Tech teammates swelled with in their final collegiate game still remains today - Lady Techster pride.
Where are they Now
Featured Alumnus: Erica Westbrooks-Jemison (Louisiana Tech, 1991)
Sport: Women's Basketball (1984-88)
Husband: Darin Jemison (Louisiana Tech, 1990)
Children: Son - Xavier (12); Daughters -- Corinne (9), Raven (8)
Occupation: Played basketball overseas for five years in Italy and France (1988-94). Worked as a data specialist at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapides starting in 1994. She also held down a second job as a political action committee manager at Meijer (retail organization) starting in 1994 (lobbyist). After Xavier was born in 1998, she moved to an employment specialist position at Meijer where she hired employees for the corporate office. She worked at the company for seven years before becoming a stay-home mom in 2000. Her husband, Darin, is the food and beverage director at the JW Marriott in Grand Rapides.
Current Residence: Live in Grand Rapides, Michigan (Darin's hometown) for the past 16 years.
Individual Stats: Played in 133 career games. Scored 1,306 points (tied for 25th). Pulled down 830 rebounds. Blocked 146 shots (9th). Shot 53 percent (559-1,046) from field and 65 percent (188-291) from free throw line. Averaged a career-best 14.6 points per game as a senior.
Career Highlight: Named the Most Outstanding Player in the 1988 National Championship after scoring 25 points, grabbing seven rebounds, recording six steals and blocking four shots in 56-54 win over Auburn. She scored 16 points in a second half that saw Tech outscore Auburn 37-23 after trailing by 14 at halftime.