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Rizzotti, Jennifer (1974—)

Rizzotti, Jennifer (1974—)

American basketball player and coach. Born in New Fairfield, Connecticut, on May 15, 1974; attended University of Connecticut; married.

Led University of Connecticut women's basketball team to NCAA championship (1995); named First Team All-America by Kodak, Associated Press (AP) and United Press International (1995–96); named AP Player of the Year (1995–96); named outstanding woman college athlete (1997); was the top pick of the New England Blizzard in the American Basketball League (ABL); was twice named to the ABL all-star team; joined the Houston Comets of the WNBA after the ABL folded; began coaching at the University of Hartford, becoming the youngest women's basketball coach in Division I (1999).

Basketball player Jennifer Rizzotti helped pave the way for women athletes in the United States to enjoy lucrative and respectable professional careers. A native of New Fairfield, Connecticut, Rizzotti excelled in basketball as a high school student, despite the fact that she was not particularly tall. During her college years at the University of Connecticut, the 5'6" point guard was central to the success of the women's team, the Huskies. She played 135 games during four seasons, and set school records in assists (637) and steals (340). She also became the only athlete at the school to ever exceed 1,000 points (1,540) and 500 assists (637). Rizzotti helped lead the team to the NCAA championship in 1995, with a perfect 35–0 season. In 1996, she played on the R. William Jones Cup Team in Taiwan. Rizzotti was also named First Team All-America by Kodak, Associated Press (AP) and United Press International (UPI) for the 1995–96 season, and was chosen as AP Player of the Year in 1996. During her senior year, in which she maintained a GPA of 3.456, Rizzotti won the Honda-Broderick Cup as the nation's outstanding woman college athlete.

After her successful college career, Rizzotti joined the New England Blizzard, a newly formed women's team in the American Basketball League (ABL). She served as a passionate advocate for women's sports, emphasizing the sense of pride and accomplishment that athletics can offer to young women and men, in addition to making a solid contribution to her team. When the ABL dissolved in 1999 because of financial difficulties, Rizzotti joined the championship Houston Comets team in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). Although eclipsed by the stellar play of high-profile teammates Cynthia Cooper and Sheryl Swoopes , Rizzotti was a valuable asset in the Comets' run for a third-straight WNBA championship.

Elizabeth Shostak , freelance writer, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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