December 2, 2023
Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame reveals iconic 2024 class
WBL legend, WNBA All-Stars highlight inductees list
The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (WBHOF) recently released its class of 2024 inductees, who will be honored in April in Knoxville. Inductees include four-time WNBA champs and Lynx teammates Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus, together with their former Lynx teammate, Taj McWilliams-Franklin. In addition, the 2024 WBHOF induction class includes Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL) MVP Rita Gail Easterling, coaches Sue Phillips and Roonie Scovel, and official Violet Palmer.
Rita Gail Easterling joins several WBL players who have inducted over the years, including Nancy Lieberman, Rosie Walker, Ann Meyers Drysdale and Pearl Moore, among others. The league as a whole was acknowledged with the Trailblazer of the Game award in 2018.
A standout at Mississippi College from 1973 to 1977, Easterling was selected second overall in the first-ever WBL draft in 1978. Easterling also played in the WBL’s inaugural game in Milwaukee, WI on December 9, 1978. She was the 1979 league MVP, averaging 21.5 points and 10.1 assists per game. That same season, she scored 44 points for the Chicago Hustle in a game against the Iowa Cornets. She was also named MVP of the league’s first All-Star game that year.
Easterling was well known for her aggressive play style, and eventually earned the knickname “Queen of the Floor Burns” when she entered the WBL. She was the head coach of Mississippi State’s women’s basketball team from 1983 to 1990, as well as their softball team, from 1986–1989, and was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
The list of inductees also includes one of the greatest the game has ever seen in Maya Moore, who remains the all-time leading scorer in UConn history (3,036 total points). The All-American led UConn to two undefeated seasons, national championships in 2009 and 2010 and four Final Fours. She was a three-time winner of the Wade Trophy, awarded annually to the best player in college women’s basketball.
In 2011, Moore was drafted by the Lynx as the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, joining LSU alum Seimone Augustus, who was the No. 1 pick in 2006. Augustus led LSU to the Final Four from 2004 to 2006 and became the consensus national player of the year in 2005 and 2006. Together, Moore and Augustus reached the WNBA Finals in six out of the next seven seasons, winning titles in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017. Moore and Augustus also won back-to-back gold medals for the U.S. in 2012 and 2016. Before that, Augustus had won gold with the 2008 U.S. squad.
Moore announced her retirement in 2023, but had stopped playing in 2018 to focus on social justice advocacy and legal system reform. Augustus retired in 2021 and served as an assistant coach on the Los Angeles Sparks for two seasons.
Taj McWilliams-Franklin was busy winning titles with the Detroit Shock in 2006 and 2008, before joining Moore and Augustus with the Lynx in 2011. McWilliams-Franklin, a 13-year WNBA veteran and six-time WNBA All-Star, was drafted in the third round of the 1999 WNBA Draft by the Orlando Miracle. She played for seven different franchises before retiring from the WNBA. Prior to the WNBA, she played in the American Basketball League (ABL).
In addition to legendary players, the WBHOF will also induct coaches Sue Phillips and Roonie Scovel.
Phillips held a 761–165 record over 28 seasons at Archbishop Mitty High in California. Scovel won six junior college national championships at Gulf Coast State College in Florida, where she was at the helm for 22 years.
The WBHOF will also recognize Cheyney University, the only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to win a NCAA Division I regional title, as the “Trailblazer of the Game,” recipient. Cheyney went to the Final Four in 1982 and 1984.
The Afghan Resettlement Program will be honored with the “For the Love of the Game,” award.
The class of 2024 induction ceremony is scheduled for April 27, 2024, at the Tennessee Theater in downtown Knoxville.