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Feb. 29, 2012
You can have your statistics, and Rhonda Mapp surely staked her claim to numerical relevance in a distinguished basketball career. Any competitor's preferred metric is stitched in cloth or engraved in jewelry, however, and NC State's ACC Legend earned the tangible stuff, too.
As legacies go, this one's tough to top: Mapp may be the most prolific winner in ACC women's basketball history. In her youth, she helped her high school to a state title and an AAU team to a national crown. She was the low-post presence on the Wolfpack's 1991 ACC championship squad, and her skills were still in demand a decade later, when she played an important reserve role for the Los Angeles Sparks' WNBA championship team.
If anybody starts another full-season league in this country, he or she may have to put in a call to Mapp -- for good luck if nothing else.
Few ACC teams have had the perimeter-interior combination the Pack had with wing player Andrea Stinson and Mapp, whose career was defined by tenacity on the block. Those who tried to wedge her out of her preferred spot were frequently whistled for fouls, and State thrived on wearing down the opposition as a result.
One team that could match NC State was Virginia, and the teams put on one of the greatest games in league history on Jan. 12, 1991 in storied Reynolds Coliseum. In three overtimes, the Cavaliers prevailed 123-120, establishing an NCAA record for scoring by both teams that has since been broken. Virginia attempted 103 field goals. Mapp had 30 points (on 15-of-17 free-throw shooting) and 17 rebounds. Five players fouled out.
And it evokes curiosity because for Mapp, it was a loss and her single most vivid memory. It did not define the season, however. Seven weeks later, State secured the ACC Tournament title as Mapp averaged 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in three games and earned all-tournament honors for the second time in her three seasons.
A year later, she became the fourth player to lead the ACC in scoring and rebounding and the first of the quartet whose resume included a conference championship at some point. (Only two other players have since duplicated both individual distinctions and a league title.)
Mapp was a part of the WNBA from its inception in 1997, when she finished third in field-goal percentage as a member of the Charlotte Sting. After three more seasons with that franchise, she moved on to the Sparks in 2001 and averaged 13 minutes a game.
In so doing, she became the second ACC alumna to win a WNBA ring, following another former Maryland star, Kelley Gibson, by a year. Gibson played for the 2000 Charlotte Comets.
Again, Mapp's work stands a time test. Only three former ACC players have played for a WNBA champion since then.
Mapp works these days for Sache, Inc., a South Carolina-based manufacturer of women's shoes, and she still fits in the Wolfpack record book, in which she holds Top-10 spots in total points, points per game, field goals, field-goal percentage and rebounds.