2010 ACC Women's Basketball Legends: Tara Heiss, Maryland

Feb. 8, 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 Tara Heiss

Q: Can you talk about the experience of playing women’s basketball at Maryland during its infancy as an intercollegiate sport?

A: I really had the whole gamut of experiences. There weren’t many scholarships my freshman year. Title IX really opened a lot of doors. After that, there were a lot of changes and growth. And the administration really gave focus to women’s athletics.

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

A: We won the ACC Tournament in my senior year in the first tournament for women’s basketball. We had a lot of success that year. I really loved the team. We had a lot of great players who were also great people.

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

A: I would say NC State because we faced them in the finals in the 1978 tournament. And it was really hard to play in Reynolds Coliseum. They were always tough games. Plus, I just had a ton of respect for Kay Yow.

Q: As a senior (1977-78), Maryland made it all the way to the championship game of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women tournament. Talk about the run in that tournament for you and your team?

A: It was just a surprise team. Nobody had heard about us to that point. We played two of the top teams in the country (No. 2 Tennessee and No. 1 NC State) and we beat them. We were on a roll, but didn’t have the experience to know what we accomplished at the point. We ended up losing in the championship game to UCLA, on their home court.

Q: You’ve also represented the United States at the World University Games in 1979 and on the U.S. Olympic team in 1980. What do those once-in-a-lifetime experiences mean to you?

A: Basketball gave me a lot of opportunities. To be able to travel around the world and play with the best players in the world was great. I consider myself to be very lucky. Of course, the country boycotted the 1980 Olympics, though.

Q: How does your induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003 define your career?

A: It’s a really big honor. To be included with some of the coaches and pioneers of women’s basketball was incredible. My family was able to attend, which was special. The ceremony and really the whole weekend was first class.

Q: You led the team in several categories over your career. Can you talk about how you leadership on the court translated off the court?

A: I’d say I was a leader on the court more so than off. We had talented players who took the role of the upperclassman. I like to think we all had a lot of pride in being part of the team.

Q: What has changed the most in ACC women’s basketball since your playing days?

A: The top players aren’t that much better, but I’d say there is more talent from 1-12 on the roster. Definitely deeper benches these days. The fundamentals, I think, are a lot better, too. There is more opportunity, no question. Coaches can schedule more games, plus the tournaments. And, of course, the size of the ball (is smaller) and the three-point line extended.

Q: What are you doing in 2010?

A: I’ve worked for FedEx for 20 years. In the past I was an assistant coach at Towson and also at Maryland. I try to be active in camps and speaking engagements, although not so often anymore. I also like to spend a lot of time at my place in the Shenandoah Valley, and with my family, friends, and dogs.

More about Tara Heiss…

Tara Heiss (Maryland, 1974-78): Tara Heiss finished her collegiate career as one of the most prolific players in Maryland history. Her 504 career assists still rank third all-time at Maryland, while her 14.2 points per game and 1,183 field goals attempts rank eighth and 10th, respectively. Heiss also set a program record, which has since been broken, with 34 points in a single game against Delaware in 1976, and recorded a 31-point outing against national powerhouse Immaculata in 1978.

As a junior and senior, Heiss led the Terps in both scoring and assists. In her senior season, Maryland claimed the school’s first Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament title, defeating NC State, 89-82, in the championship game. Heiss was named the tournament’s most valuable player. The Terps advanced to the title game of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Tournament with wins over second-ranked NC State and top-ranked Tennessee, but fell to UCLA, 90-74, in the championship.

Heiss was a Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-Region selection as a senior. Following her collegiate career, Heiss played in the World University Games in 1979 and was named to the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.