"Love never fails,
character never quits,
and with patience and persistence,
dreams do come true."
-"Pistol" Pete Maravich
By Wayne Clements
For most of her high school, college and even professional career, Jennifer Gillom has dreamed of being able to play her trade where her family could see. After 10 years, she finally got that chance this summer.
Gillom, an All-SEC forward at Ole Miss from 1983-86, had been forced to take her considerable basketball talents overseas for the last 10 years because no professional women's league existed in the United States. This summer, Gillom played for the Phoenix Mercury in the newly-formed Women's NBA.
With patience and persistence, her dream came true.
"I was hoping for it, but I really didn't think it would happen," Gillom said Monday before speaking to the Tupelo High girls basketball team. "When I heard it was going to happen, it was the greatest day for me in a while."
Gillom, an Abbeville native who was part of the 1988 gold medal team in the Seoul Olympics, delivered that same message Monday to the Tupelo Lady Wave.
"Even though it took me 10 years to get where I am now, I believed," Gillom said. "I am so glad that I hung in there as long as I have. That dream finally came true."
Gillom, a 6-foot-2 forward, still tops the Ole Miss list of points in a season (742) and career (2,486). She ranks second, along with sister Peggie, in career scoring average (17.3) and ranks third in rebounds per game (7.6) and blocks (112).
Although her team didn't win the first WNBA title, Gillom was happy for the coach who led the Houston Comets to the crown former Ole Miss head coach Van Chancellor. Peggie Gillom is Chancellor's assistant coach.
"What a year," Gillom said with a smile. "I'm happy for him. I thought he should have won a national championship in college. He was way overdue."
Gillom said Chancellor knows how to get the best out of a player, which is why Houston forward Cynthia Cooper was named the league's first MVP.
"He did the same thing with Cooper that he did with me," Gillom said. "If you can score, he's going to do everything in his power to get you the ball."
Gillom also shared stories of her pro life with the Lady Wave, including the night Shaquille O'Neal cheered for her.
"He was sitting on the sideline yelling, 'Gillom, shoot another 3, shoot another 3.' That was, ya'll," Gillom said, putting her hand over her heart and faking a swoon, "I'd been yelling for him for years, now here he was yelling for me."
Gillom, 33, spent nine years in Italy, a year in Greece and will leave later this week for a season with a team in Turkey. But, with an expanded schedule and better pay in the WNBA, this will be her last season overseas.
"I can handle eight months overseas, but two months in the WNBA ... it's way too physical, too much stress on the body," she said. "I want to coach, especially if I play a few more seasons in Phoenix. I'd kind of like to stay there. You definitely have the support of the people."