Women’s College Basketball Notebook Domond returns home with Rutgers
STORRS — The routine is still familiar to Nadine Domond.
Growing up in Bridgeport, Domond spent most of her time in gyms that allowed her to escape the violence riddling her city. She was a basketball star, the top-ranked high school point guard in the country, in fact.
“Remember, at that time, it was extremely tough growing up,” said Domond, now an assistant coach at Rutgers. “Places like Boys and Girls Club was a safe haven, the North End Boys and Girls Club or the Cardinal Shehan Center. Those were all safe havens for us as kids.”
“I could remember the routine,” she continued. “You’d play basketball for a little bit. You got tired and you’d go to the game room and you’d play pool, play ping pong. You got tired, then you’d go down to the pool and you’d go swimming after that. You went back and played basketball. … There were so many talented kids, and every day was a battle. I really have to say that because of those safe grounds and those havens, they developed me and developed a toughness about me, a mentality about me that helped me throughout my career.”
She led Bridgeport Central to a state championship in 1994 and finished her career with 2,300 points. UConn coach Geno Auriemma recruited her, but Domond ultimately decided to play for Vivian Stringer at Iowa over the Huskies, Rutgers, Georgia and UNC.
“He was just the same way he is now,” Domond said of Auriemma. “He was relentless. He truly believed in what he was building. He truly believed he was going to be special. He truly believed that he was going to build a national championship program, which he did.”
This past winter, Domond returned to her high school to have her jersey retired. She finds herself back in her home state this weekend, as No. 7 Rutgers faces No. 10 Buffalo in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I came here twice for Iowa,” she said. “It brought back a lot of memories. They had a great class with Rita Williams, Nykesha Sales, what a talented group of people.”
Stringer, one of five Division-I women’s coaches with 1,000 wins (including Auriemma), is sitting out the rest of the season for health reasons.
Buffalo coach Felisha Leggette-Jack wants her players to be excited. She wants them to soak in everything, from playing in the NCAA Tournament to, well, meeting Auriemma.
“I’m not gonna tell them to not be excited about Geno, I’m gonna be excited about meeting Geno,” she said. “I want them to be excited. Geno recruited me as well for Virginia, and I said no and came to Syracuse, and thank God, because that was his first year as a head coach here at UConn.”
Leggette-Jack joked that she may even get Auriemma’s autograph.
“What a great opportunity to go up against the Rutgers legacy and the Geno mystique, if I get that opportunity,” she said. “I’m so humbled by this, my players are too. But one thing I teach my players every single day about the journey of life is that you can respect all but fear nobody.”