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CBlazejowski 

Carol Blazejowski

Sport: Basketball

Born: September 29, 1956

Town: Elizabeth, New Jersey

Carol Ann Blazejowski was born September 29, 1956 in Elizabeth. She grew up in Cranford, and discovered basketball in the local playgrounds. She watched the boys shooting jump shots and began mimicking them. Soon she was playing against boys, both in youth leagues and in school. At Cranford High, she was playing an altogether different game than the other girls. Not only could she drive the lane and shoot from the outside, she moved so well without the ball that her teammates found her open almost every time down the court.

This attracted the attention of Montclair State College, which had one of the area’s most ambitious women’s basketball programs under coach Maureen Wendelken. She convinced Carol (or “Blaze” as she was called) to join the Red Hawks. She averaged 33 points a game as a freshman. As a sophomore, Carol was named an All-American for the first of three times.

Carol and the Red Hawks started to draw the attention of sports fans in the region during the 1976–77 season. In a game against Queens College held in Madison Square Garden, she scored a record 52 points. Suddenly, Carol was the toast of the town. She kept rolling as a senior, winning the Wade Trophy and finishing her college career with three 40-point game to lead the nation in scoring with 1,235 points. In four seasons she total 3,199 points and averaged 31.7 per game. More important, she inspired a generation of girls to play basketball. The New York Times sang her praises in article after article. Sports Illustrated called Carol the most relentlessly exciting performer in the history of women's basketball.

During the summers, Carol played AAU basketball. She also competed for the US women’s national team. At the 1977 World University Games she was the tournament’s leading scorer. In 1979, she led Team USA to the World Championship title. Women’s basketball fans could hardly wait to see her perform in front of an international TV audience at the 1980 Olympics, but the US boycotted the Summer Games.

In the late 1970s, a group of investors started a women’s pro league called the Women’s Pro Basketball League. Carol signed a three-year contract in 1980 for $150,000 to play for the New Jersey Gems, but the WBL folded in 1981. Another league started up in 1984 and Carol agreed to play for the New York franchise, but that league folded too. It would be more than a decade before women’s hoops would gain a toehold on the professional sports scene.

In the meantime, Carol carved out a career as an executive with the NBA. She was also inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. She was also a member of the inaugural class of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. When the WNBA was formed in 1997, Carol was named GM of the New York Liberty. She stayed with Liberty through the 2010 season, after which she returned to her alma mater—now Montclair State University—as a vice president.

 

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