FSU’s Gattuso, Huffman honored

Former Fairmont State women’s basketball standouts Vikki Huffman (left) and Kristen Gattuso pose for a picture when Gattuso was honored for breaking the school’s all-time scoring record, which was held by Huffman.

Kristen Gattuso and Vicki Huffman enjoyed stellar playing careers at Fairmont State University.

Thursday the pair were honored once again by the West Virginia Conference as two of its Top 25 players of all-time in women’s basketball in the league.

The WVC’s “25 at 25” squad honors 25 of the league’s all-time great players and five coaches in celebration of the 25th anniversary of women’s athletics in the conference.

A panel of 31 past and present coaches, administrators, players and media members selected the team from a final ballot which included 55 players and 12 coaches. Players were required to win a major conference award, earn first-team All-WVC accolades at least twice or score 2,000-plus career points to earn inclusion on the ballot.

Fairmont’s Gattuso, Huffman, Terri Lovejoy (who played her first three seasons at Concord), Kara Morris, Ashley Reed, Vonda Shaw and Jennifer Wilson were all included on the 55-player final ballot.

Gattuso and Huffman, however, were the only two Lady Falcons to make the Top 25. The University of Charleston and West Liberty State College had the most player honorees with five apiece. Glenville State was represented by four selections. FSU, Alderson-Broaddus, Bluefield State, and Salem each had a pair of picks, while Concord, West Virginia State and West Virginia Wesleyan each earned one spot apiece.

Gattuso, a 5-6 two-guard from Pittsburgh who played for FSU from 2001-05, is the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,041 career points, which currently ranks sixth all-time in the West Virginia Conference. The two-time, first-team all-conference honoree was the 2005 Player of the Year in both the conference and the NCAA Division II East Region.

“I was really excited when I found out about this because I know there’s been so many great women’s basketball players in this conference,” said Gattuso. “When I first found out this was going on I certainly didn’t feel like oh, I’m definitely going to make this team.

“So many good players have played and are playing in this conference. I have a lot of respect for the people who played before me and for the ones I played against for four years. To be in the company of those who made it is just a great honor for me.”

A 2005 second-team All-America selection, Gattuso helped lead Fairmont State to its only regular-season conference championship in women’s basketball in 2005 and to its first-ever national tournament berth. Her 22.7 scoring average as a senior tied Vonda Shaw’s single-season school record. She also holds the school record for career 3-point field goals with 258, which ranks her among the top 35 in NCAA Division II history. She scored a single-season, school-record 727 points as a senior and is fourth in school history in career steals with 229.

“For me to make the top 25 is a testament to the players I played with and to coach Mac (Steve McDonald) for believing in me from the beginning,” said Gattuso. “I started as a freshman and he coached me all along the way and always had faith in what I could do and what we could do as a team.

“Like I said my teammates were always special to me. (Former FSU point guard) Erica (Rome) once told a reporter from a Pittsburgh paper that she always knew that I’d be there at some point during the game. To have support like that from your teammates pushes you to never let them down. They became my driving force. We won together, lost together and formed lasting bonds.

“As a coach now I always try to stress to the players that everything you’re going to go through, you’re going to do it together and because of that you’re going to form strong bonds. You win together, you lose together and any accolades any individual receives is a testament to the team and a reflection of it. I’ve always felt that way.”

Gattuso also had praise for her parents, Dan and June Gattuso, and their support during her career at FSU.

“I don’t ever think I’ve thanked my parents enough for their love and support over the years,” she said. “They were always there for me and looking back now and receiving an honor like this makes me appreciate their sacrifices and their support during my career that much more.”

Huffman, a 6-foot center from Clarksburg, starred for Fairmont State from 1980-84. She finished her career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,806 points and held the record for 21 years until Gattuso broke it in 2005. The three-time, first-team all-conference selection still holds the FSU record for career rebounds with 1,204 and has a share of the school’s single-game rebounding record with 23. She also has three of the top six rebounding seasons in FSU history.

“Obviously this is a very nice honor for me,” said Huffman. “Honestly, it’s a little surprising to me that 23 years after my career ended people still recall me as an athlete and I’m still receiving such a distinguished honor. I really feel blessed that I was chosen.”

Huffman was a third-team NAIA All-America selection in 1984 when she helped lead Fairmont State to its only West Virginia Conference Tournament Championship in women’s basketball. The three-time, all-tournament selection averaged 16.4 points or more during three of her four seasons.

“Honestly, I feel like this is not just a credit to me, but to all of my teammates because I never saw myself as being that good,” said Huffman. “I could’ve never accomplished what I did if I didn’t have great teammates around me. They all played keyed roles in my success and the success of our teams back then. I don’t just mean the other four starters either. The girls on the bench and the girls who came and practiced every night were a big part of things. Everyone played a role in helping to shape my career and helping me to accomplish what I did.

“There were even people in the community who deserve credit from me. We had guys who came and practiced against us back then and that only made us better. Basketball is not an individual sport. It’s a team sport and I had a lot of support during my career at Fairmont.”

Huffman also paid tribute to her former coach Joe Lambiotte.

“Joe Lambiotte was an excellent coach,” said Huffman. “He was able to push me to achieve things beyond what I believed I could achieve. He had a knack for bringing out the best in his players and I certainly owe a lot of my success to him.”

Former Glenville State standout Tracy Wyatt was the lone unanimous selection as a player. Charleston’s Lisa Lee and West Liberty State’s Joanna Bernabei were listed on 30 of the 31 ballots. Other players who received 25 or more votes include: Huffman, Sandy Chisar (Alderson-Broaddus), Donna Gordon (West Virginia State), Lola Jones (Bluefield State), Charlotte Powell (Salem), Rachel Redick (Glenville State) and Sherry Winn (Charleston). Redick is the team’s only active player.

Three current coaches are among the five all-time mentors selected to the team. Glenville State’s Steve Harold and West Liberty State’s Lynn Ullom were on all 31 ballots. Charleston’s Sherry Winn, who is the only honoree as both a coach and player, is the other active coach. Bud Francis, who coached at Morris Harvey/Charleston, and former Bluefield State coach Tom Jessee round out the top five selections.

Other coaches who made the final ballot of 12 included Fairmont State’s Steve McDonald, Charleston’s Linda Bennett, Shepherd’s Betsy Blose, Glenville State’s Tim Carney, Wheeling Jesuit’s Don Hustead, Wheeling Jesuit’s Joe Key and Bluefield State’s Kenny Mandeville. McDonald and Key are the lone two active coaches in the WVC from this group.

The selections will be officially honored at the upcoming West Virginia Conference Basketball Tournament during the event’s Championship Saturday in early March at the Charleston Civic Center.

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