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How Two Teams and One Scrappy
Player Put Women's Hoops on the Map
Recounting the thrilling action of the first
women's intercollegiate basketball game.
Illustrated by Matt Collins • Published by
Holiday House, 2011 • 32 Pages • Ages 6 to 10
On April 4, 1896, eighteen players—nine per team—stormed onto the improvised basketball court at San Francisco’s Page Street Armory to make sports history. The players, female students from Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley, were about to square off in the first basketball game ever between two women’s college teams. Among those leading the charge for Stanford was Agnes Morley, a guard from Datil, New Mexico, who would later recount the details of the game to her classmates back at school.
Ever since I first read the newspaper coverage of this game more than 15 years ago, I’ve wanted to tell its story. The local papers seemed well aware of the match-up’s significance, sending female reporters—no men were allowed in the arena—and offering lavish coverage, complete with interviews, illustrations, and play-by-play recaps of the competition. Poring over microfilm printouts from those newspapers a century later, I felt the story start to come alive. But I wanted to see the action, as well as write about it, so I decided to do something I’d never done before: write a picture book. Fortunately, my wise editors at Holiday House chose the perfect illustrator to capture the excitement and elegance of the game, Matt Collins.
Fans of women’s basketball today may be surprised at the differences in the rules in 1896. Back then guards, centers, and forwards had to stay within their thirds of the court, and only the forwards could shoot. Baskets and foul shots counted for one point each, and though the players were allowed to run with the ball up to five feet at a time, they weren’t allowed to dribble. Teammates moved the ball from one end of the court to the other with a series of passes. Despite these restrictive rules, however, the players weren’t all that different from those of today. They jumped, lunged, dove, and scrambled, fully embracing the spirit of competition and establishing themselves as role models for the female athletes who came after them.
What the Critics Said
“There are lots of books about basketball and some good ones about women’s ‘firsts.’ This one, though, does a particularly great job of putting the two themes together…The sprightly text gives the game’s details, but it is Collins’ fabulous, in-your-face paintings that bring the palpable excitement home….The author’s note and time line add depth to a book that’s both fun and informative.”
—Starred Review, ALA Booklist, March 15, 2011
“In this rousing picture book, Macy and Collins take readers to the (very) early days of women’s basketball through the eyes of Agnes Morley….Agnes’s first-person account is laced with information about how the game was played at the time, as well as her confident inner thoughts….Her determination shines through in Collins’s dynamic, painterly digital spreads.”
—Publishers Weekly, February 14, 2011