Katrina McClain grew up in Charleston dreaming of one day becoming a lawyer.
She never made it to law school and instead will have to settle on being one of the greatest female basketball players on the planet.
On Monday, McClain was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
McClain and the other members of the 2012 class — including NBA all-star Reggie Miller, former NBA coach Don Nelson, former college and NBA stars Ralph Sampson and Jamaal Wilkes, and college basketball official Hank Nichols — were recognized at halftime of Monday night’s NCAA men’s basketball championship game between Kentucky and Kansas in New Orleans.
“Obviously it’s a thrill,” McClain said by telephone from New Orleans. “It’s such a huge honor to be recognized like this. I certainly didn’t get here by myself. My family, my mother and father, and my brothers and sisters, my teammates along the way and the many great coaches I’ve had the privilege of playing for all share in this honor.”
Honing her skills on the cement courts in West Ashley, McClain never thought that basketball would become her future profession or be her ticket to see the world.
“I wanted to be a lawyer,” McClain said. “Honestly, that’s all I thought about growing up. I played basketball and did sports because I enjoyed it, not because I thought it would hold anything for me in the future. I never even thought about playing basketball in college until I was in high school.”
McClain’s father, Edward, knew his daughter was talented at a young age but couldn’t have imagined this kind of success or fame.
“I don’t think any parent dreams of this when their child first starts out,” Edward McClain said. “To accomplish what Katrina has accomplished during her career is unbelievable. We’re all so proud of her.”
McClain’s resume speaks for itself.
McClain, 46, who still lives in West Ashley, was a star at the former St. Andrews High School, leading the Rocks to an undefeated season and a state title during her senior year in 1983. McClain earned a scholarship to the University of Georgia, where she became one of the sport’s most decorated college players.
She was named NCAA national player of the year in 1987 and later played on 11 U.S. national teams, including Olympic squads that won gold medals in 1988 and 1996, and a bronze medal in 1992.
With few options to play professional basketball in the United States, McClain played for four seasons in Japan (1987-91), one season in Italy (1992) and two years in Spain (1993-94) before returning to Japan for another season (1995). After the 1996 Olympics, McClain returned to Europe to play in Turkey and then joined the American Basketball League’s Atlanta Glory for the 1997-98 season.
“There is a large contingency of people, both in this country and worldwide, who think Katrina McClain could be women’s basketball’s best power player ever,” Georgia coach Andy Landers told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I hear that expressed over and over again when I talk with coaches who actually coached her or coached against her. She will go down as one of the all-time greats and induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame only validates that assessment.”
McClain returned to Charleston after her basketball years and established the Katrina McClain Foundation, which helps youths who are at risk because of illiteracy, teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, lack of fitness or overall unhealthy lifestyles.
“The foundation is so important to me,” said McClain, who has three children.
McClain will be officially enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame on Sept. 7 in Springfield, Mass.