She made the 50-mile journey from Southwick, Massachusetts, to Storrs, opting for our state university over the likes of Notre Dame and Stanford.
When Rebecca Lobo made that decision nearly three decades ago, the UConn women’s basketball program was in its infancy. Geno Auriemma had yet to win a national title as he was laying the foundation for what would become a dynasty.
Lobo, of course, would be the face of the first title team as she built a basketball life that landed her in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame — a venue that sits just 15 minutes from her childhood home.
On March 2, she’ll be honored by her alma mater. Lobo’s No. 50 will be retired at Gampel Pavilion, a day before Ray Allen’s No. 34 is retired by the men’s program.
It’s a fitting distinction for the most important player in the history of her sport’s greatest program.
Let’s retrace the life and career of a Connecticut legend:
Lobo was born in Hartford on Oct. 6, 1973. Her father Dennis was a teacher and coach at Granby High, bordering the Massachusetts border. Mother RuthAnn was a teacher and guidance counselor in the Granby school system. Dennis grew up in New Britain and both parents graduated from Central Connecticut, where they met.
But Why UConn?
About 100 colleges recruited the 6-foot-4 Rebecca out of Southwick-Tolland Regional High, where she scored a then-Massachusetts record 2,740 points. Elite academic schools such as Stanford, Notre Dame, Duke and Vanderbilt pursued Lobo, also a top student. RuthAnn favored Notre Dame, viewing UConn as a safety school. But Auriemma bonded with Rebecca, who saw the young coach building a strong program. “At the time, it was probably the most recruiting challenge that we had ever had,” Auriemma said before Lobo’s Hall of Fame induction in 2017. “That was the most important thing that we had ever gone through.”
Face Of The Huskies
As the program evolved into a national power, Lobo became an elite players. She scored 2,133 points, had 1,268 rebounds and 396 blocks in her career, which culminated with a sweep of the national player of the year awards in 1995. And she was at the center of the program’s first NCAA title in ’95, as UConn beat Tennessee in the championship. She was twice a First Team All-American and twice Big East Player of the Year.
After leaving UConn, Lobo joined the national team and was the youngest player on the 1996 gold medal-winning team at the Atlanta Games. It was a roster stocked with the biggest names in the sport: Dawn Staley, Jennifer Azzi, Sheryl Swoopes, Teresa Edwards, among others. And with the WNBA forming, the team’s success was pivotal for the growth of the sport. Lobo was front and center. TV Guide’s Olympic issue featured Lobo standing between Leslie and Staley. The headline? “The OTHER Dream Team.”
New York, New York
Lobo moved to the WNBA’s New York Liberty and became a star in the young league. She was an all-star with the Liberty and one of the most recognizable players in the league, appearing as herself on the sitcom “Mad About You” and squaring off with Big Bird in a game of one-on-one on Sesame Street. She was also interview by David Letterman and Conan O’Brien on late night TV.
From Playing To Talking
Lobo’s WNBA career lasted until 2003, as she spent a year in Houston and finished with the Connecticut Sun. She did her first foray into broadcasting with ESPN in 1996, impressing the network with her analysis and demeanor. So when her career ended, Lobo joined the ESPN and she remains a mainstay on the Bristol-based network — in studio and on the road, broadcasting games all over the country. ESPN vice president Carol Stiff has called her the face of the network’s women’s basketball coverage.
Mother & Wife
Lobo is married to sports journalist Steve Rushin. The couple have four children: Siobhan, Thomas, Maeve, and Rose.
Coach & Mentor
Lobo volunteers as a coach at Northwest Catholic, where her daughter is a freshman. She has also coached youth basketball in Simsbury, along with instructing kids at camps and clinics throughout the state over the years.
Did You Know?
Lobo is on the UConn Board of Trustees.
History Of 50
Lobo’s number has not been worn since she left UConn in 1995. Prior to Lobo, No. 50 was worn by four players: Darlene Hedges (1979-80), Leigh Curl (1982-85), Marissa Jaye (1985-86). And Renee Najarian (1986-88).
The Honor Roll
Lobo was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017. She was selected for Huskies of Honor in 2006, was the national college Player of the Year in 1995, and possesses an NCAA title (1995) and Olympic gold medal (1996).