Remember when the Kansas women’s basketball team was finishing higher in the Big XII than the men’s team? Remember when those teams had equal or better runs in the NCAA tournament than the men’s team? Many people don’t, and considering the recent conference domination by the higher profile men’s squad, it’s hard to imagine that the university’s best shot at a conference championship sometimes came in the women’s game. Not surprisingly, these years coincided with Lynn Pride’s time at Kansas.
Pride, a Vero Beach, Florida native, came to Kansas in the fall of 1996 and made an immediate impact for coach Marian Washington and the Jayhawks. The six foot two inch guard/forward combo averaged 7.9 points and 6.4 rebounds in her freshman campaign including a monster game in the inaugural Big XII tournament against Baylor where she ripped down 17 rebounds. KU won the league that year and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
In her sophomore season, she led the team in scoring (14.9 PPG) and rebounding (6.7 RPG) on her way to first team All-Big XII honors. KU advanced to the round of 16 in the NCAA tourney that season. It’s a solid start to a collegiate career, but this was just the beginning for Pride.
Her status as a KU great really took off in her last two seasons⌃ in Lawrence. During her junior and senior seasons, she had the fortune of being one of the most recognizable and successful athletes on the KU campus. The crowds for women’s games were on the rise and the team received more recognition, and Lynn Pride was the major reason. During her junior season, she led the team in every offensive and defensive category except assists. She was again selected to the All-Big XII first team while averaging 17.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.7 steals, and 0.7 blocks per contest.
⌃These are the years mentioned above where the women’s team performed equal to their male counterparts with whom they share the Allen Fieldhouse floor. Those two seasons were difficult for the Roy Williams led Jayhawks as his teams limped through the regular season (98-99: 23-10 overall record, 3rd in conference,11-5 Big XII record, NCAA #6 seed and 2nd round loss/99-00: 24-10, 5th, 11-5, #8 seed and 2nd round loss) and finished those seasons as major disappointments in March.
Pride’s senior season was punctuated with second team All-America honors and her third consecutive All-Big XII honor after she again led KU with more than 17 points per game. KU went to the NCAA tourney in each of Pride’s four seasons, two of which eclipsed or equaled the run’s the men’s team made. She finished her KU career as the program’s fifth leader scorer (1774 points), third leading rebounder (863) and she lands in fourth place in both steals and blocks at 279 and 93 respectively.
After Pride left the program (she was drafted #7 overall by the Portland Fire), KU’s women’s hoops program went into sharp decline. The team went 11 straight seasons without reaching an NCAA tournament and in those years, KU’s highest finish in conference was a tie for seventh place. For many, those women’s teams in the mid to late 1990’s were a welcome addition to the winning tradition at KU, a tradition that could never have been realized if it weren’t for Lynn Pride.