Fame or family -- choice easy for Anderson

The following is another "Have Fun or Get Out of the Way" column by Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola, which runs occasionally in The Superior Telegram.

Jolene Anderson

The following is another "Have Fun or Get Out of the Way" column by Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola, which runs occasionally in The Superior Telegram.

Parents all over the country are throwing mini basketballs in baby's cribs, putting up nerf ball hoops above doors, and going so far as to construct basketball courts in their driveways.

The question asked is "where will this lead to?" For some the answer is crushed dreams, and for others it is modest success on a local level.

For our 2008 Sportswoman of the year, it led to a lot more.

The story of Jolene Anderson and basketball probably started before she was even born, when her parents Jim and Julie played for South Shore High School in Port Wing and developed a love for the game. Julie Rantala went on to become a star player with the University of Wisconsin-Stout basketball team.


When Anderson was four years old, she began shooting at a hoop on the garage wall, playing with older sister Jennifer. She immediately was taken with the game. Competing with the boys through sixth grade, she distinguished herself as a top player, regardless of gender. In junior high, she started to dominate games, along with talented classmate Jessica Johnson.

Entering South Shore High School, Anderson was already a skilled hoopster with a cool demeanor. She quickly gained renown in the North for her exploits, leading her team to the state tournament as a sophomore and catching the eye of recruiters nationwide.

Her commitment to the University of Wisconsin as a senior disappointed such schools as Minnesota and UCLA, among others.

Still, her reputation in Madison was discounted by many, claiming she set her scoring records against suspect competition. Not until her senior year, when she established the state scoring record of 58 points in one game and 2,881 points in her high school career, did she convince fans in the state that she was for real.

With laid back coach Don Moore at the helm, encouraging all players on his team to shoot the ball at will, the Cardinals again made the state tournament, where they faced the defending state champion Elkhart Lake-Glenbuelah team.

Anderson proved herself once and for all that day with a 46-point, 28-rebound effort. She had definitely arrived. Even a championship game loss to Racine Prairie didn't diminish her acclaim.

Following her deeds on the prep hardcourt, Anderson became the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, a four-year starter for the Badger women's basketball team and again led her team in scoring. During summers she helped Team USA earn three straight gold medals in international play, traveling to such far away places as Mexico City, Tunisia, Hungary, Russia, Romania, France, Germany and Spain.

What about 2008, you ask? How could Anderson top all of that? Well, in short, she did.


Her senior year in college ended with her becoming the Wisconsin's all-time leading scorer for either the men's or women's teams. Her 2,312 points is a mark that will likely stand for quite some time. She led the Big Ten in scoring at 19.3 points per game. She was also named the Media's 2008 Big Ten Player of the Year. The Women's Basketball Coaches of America named her the 2008 winner of the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, given to the nation's outstanding collegiate basketball player 5-foot-8 or under.

Her play inspired numerous articles, poetry and even a song, as a Dolly Parton hit song from 1974 named "Jolene" was revised and parodied to honor the talented girl from Port Wing.

Anderson is just three credits away from earning a degree in sociology, not a small feat in light of all the time basketball has consumed.

Shortly after her college career ended, the Connecticut Sun of the Women's National Basketball Association made her the 23rd pick in the annual draft and subsequently signed her to a contract.

Playing more than half the season with the Sun, she was "bumped" by a Beijing Olympic star. This seeming setback was turned into a golden opportunity as she then signed a professional contract with Villeneuve DAsco ASB Lille Metropole, a French professional team. That is where she lives today.

Truly she has come a long way since shooting hoops with sister, Jennifer, on the garage hoop. Basketball has opened up the world to Anderson.

Yes, you could say Anderson had a pretty good 2008: Wisconsin's all time leading scorer, All-American, WNBA draftee and a professional contract in Europe.

But through all this, she impressed us most when she continued to make one thing a priority in her life: her family.


Anderson would be more excited to see her younger sister, Janice, score a basket against Washburn than she would herself score a hoop against a Russian National team. She cherishes the long rides her parents made with her to Menomonie to play AAU basketball for the Viking Club teams. She relishes the memories of Grandpa Dossie in the crowd with his "I'm Jolene's Grandpa" baseball cap. And she definitely clings to the memories of her late grandma, Nancy Rantala, listening to her games at Oulu Pines Apartments.

Fame, glory, adventure and travel all take a back seat to family in the mind and heart of the "Have Fun or Get out of the Way" 2008 Sportswoman of the Year, Jolene Anderson.

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