LAS VEGAS — Lisa Van Goor assumed Colorado athletic director Rick George was joking. It turned out it was very serious, and very flattering, business indeed.
Arguably the greatest player in the history of the Colorado women's basketball program, Van Goor put up her unprecedented, and still unrepeated, numbers for the Buffaloes decades before the program became a member of the Pac-12 Conference.
Nevertheless, when the time came to nominate a CU legend for this year's Pac-12 Hall of Honor induction class, George huddled with two associate athletic directors — Dave Plati and former longtime women's basketball coach Ceal Barry — to pick the appropriate alumnus.
Van Goor was the proverbial slam dunk choice. On Friday, Van Goor took her place alongside a number of Pac-12 luminaries in the 2019 Hall of Honor class. To say the least, George's call to inform her of the good news was unexpected.
"I was doing some work when Rick George called me, and I think the kind of caught me off-guard," Van Goor said. "I really thought he was joking. He said, 'No, Ceal Barry, Dave Plati and I thought you were the best bet.' It was kind of not real until I saw my name along the ribbon while watching the Pac-12 women's tournament last week. So it's really been kind of cool."
With 2,067 points, Van Goor held the title as the Buffs' all-time leading scorer for more than 25 years until Brittany Spears finally passed her during the 2010-11 season. Van Goor remains the Buffs' all-time leader in career scoring average (18.0), field goals (862), total rebounds (1,127), and rebounding average (9.8). She is the only CU basketball player — female or male — to amass at least 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in their career.
Van Goor enjoyed the unique distinction of playing for a pair of legendary coaches, spending her first three seasons under Sox Walseth before getting a front-row seat for the first two seasons of what became an incredible career for Barry (Van Goor was injured early in her senior season in 1983-84 and returned the next year for a fifth season).
"They were so far at the each end of the spectrum," Van Goor said. "Ceal was a tough coach, there's no doubt. But you know what? We complained about it. We didn't like it all the time. But those are the things down the road of life you really appreciate now more than anything. And Sox just made basketball fun. He had a way of really cementing the team. We had a really cohesive team and we played like that on the court."
A self-described "shy kid from South Dakota," Van Goor remains immensely grateful for the opportunities that arrived later due her playing career at CU. As she reflected on that career before the official induction ceremony Friday, Van Goor expressed the hope that athletics will continue to open similar doors for current and future CU women athletes.
"Basketball gave me confidence, I think," Van Goor said. "That's what's so important for girls getting into sports. My teammates were always on me about being more aggressive. It's just about going after what you want."
Van Goor was part of a star-studded induction class that included former baseball standout John Olerud (Washington State); former NFL football stars Ronnie Lott (USC) and Steve Smith (Utah); and the late, great former football coach from Arizona State, Frank Kush.