2010 ACC Women's Basketball Legends: Tonya Sampson, North Carolina

Feb. 1, 2010

The Atlantic Coast Conference celebrates its sixth annual class of ACC Women’s Basketball Legends during the 2010 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament, March 4-7, at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum. The honorees will be recognized during the ACC Legends Luncheon, as well as on the court at halftime of the first semifinal game on Saturday, March 6.

The ACC Women’s Basketball Legends program honors past players from each of the ACC’s 12 schools who have contributed to the league’s rich tradition. Included in the class are 12 former student-athletes that represent four decades of ACC Women’s Basketball competitors.

TheACC.com will feature three members of the 2010 ACC Legends Class each week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) during the final four weeks of the regular season.

Q&A with Tonya Sampson

Q: What was the most memorable game for you while playing at North Carolina?

A: Of course it would have to be the (national) championship game. I came in as a freshman and we were in the bottom of the cellar and when I left as a senior we were at the top of the nation.

Q: Does a specific game or team stand out as a special rivalry for your program?

A: In my playing days it was always Duke or [NC] State of course. My senior year our rival was Virginia because they beat us twice. Those were the only two losses that we had in our regular season. That was a rival for us just because they beat us. No one else had beaten us. But just on a regular basis it was always State and Duke.

During the summer, a lot of us, the players, would play against each other in leagues and stuff which they don’t have any more. So we always had it out for each other. We played with each other in the leagues and then when we played in the ACC we couldn’t wait to play against them.

Q: How did you get into playing basketball?

A: When I was small I played just about every sport and all my friends were boys so whatever they did, I did. I played football, baseball, softball, basketball and raced motorcycles. Whatever my friends were doing, I was doing. Where I lived there was a big park. Everyone from the town would gather there and we would play against each other. Everyone wanted to pick on my team because I was a girl, but my friends wouldn’t let that happen. So I learned to be tough and stick up for myself. I knew that everyone would come after me because I was a girl, but they couldn’t handle me in that sense, especially since my friends were always there for me.

Q: What do you enjoy doing now?

A: I play football now. I play women’s professional football for the Carolina Queens out of Charlotte. I always loved football. I really enjoy it now because I fully understand the game - offense, defense, the whole nine yards. My other pastime is to play poker.

Q: What advice would you give to a current ACC women’s basketball player getting ready for life after school.

A: Get a job. It is harder these days to prepare someone for what it is like after college. Until that day comes when their final game is played and the summer comes and goes…and they know that they’re not going to get prepared for the fall and now they might be like “Uh oh, what am I going to do now?”

More about Tonya Sampson...

Tonya Sampson (North Carolina, 1990-94) As a senior, Tonya Sampson earned Kodak, Basketball America and Basketball Times All-America honors, while leading the Tar Heels to the 1994 NCAA National Championship. She paced the team in scoring in each of her four years, averaging a career-best 21 points per game over the 1992-93 season.

Sampson graduated as Carolina’s all-time leading scorer with 2,143 points, a total that was surpassed in 1998 by Tracy Reid. Sampson was a member of the ACC’s All-Freshmen team in 1991, and then earned All-ACC honors as a sophomore, junior and senior. The guard also earned ACC All-Tournament team recognition in 1994 after leading her squad to its second ACC Tournament title and Carolina’s first since 1984. Sampson, who is part of the 30-member 1,000-point scoring club at UNC, ranks in the Tar Heels’ career top 10 in points (3rd), scoring average (2nd), total rebounds (9th), rebounding average (9th) and steals (2nd).

Born in Clinton, N.C., Sampson won two state championships at Clinton High (1989 & 1990). Sampson, who had her #34 jersey honored, was also named to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 50th Anniversary Team in 2003. Born in Clinton, N.C., Sampson won two state basketball championships at Clinton High (1989 &1990), while also participating in softball, volleyball and tennis.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Recreation Administration, Sampson began her professional basketball career. She competed in four difference countries over a three-year span before returning to the American Basketball League (ABL). Following an ACL injury, Sampson returned to international competition until 2001, when the guard retired.

Since 2008, Sampson has transferred her athletic talents to the Independent Women’s Football League. As a linebacker for the Carolina Phoenix and Carolina Queens, she was voted one of the league’s top defensive players.