Debbie Brock, the magical point guard on Delta State’s three national championship teams in the mid-1970s, has so many memories of her college days, including winning basketball games in Madison Square Garden, in the Louisiana Superdome and of winning 120 while losing only nine.
And there was also this memory: “We were playing Ole Miss at Oxford,” Brock said. “It was before the game and we were just shooting around, warming up. Lucy (Harris) and I were at one end, just the two of us. It must have looked funny. She was 6-foot-3 and I was 4-foot-11. Lucy kind of made two of me. And then this one fan, with a really loud voice, yelled out: ‘Hey, number 22 – that was me – did they bring you over here in the glove compartment?’”
And so, this reporter asks: “So what did you do?”
“I just laughed,” Brock said. “I laughed and laughed. It’s still just about the funniest thing I ever heard.”
Now, 43 years later, Brock laughed again telling the story. In fact, she has the last laugh because, this June, she will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She is richly deserving, as we will see.
She is, of course, the smallest player ever to be inducted into the Knoxville, Tennessee, shrine, envisioned by the late, great Tennessee coach Pat Head Summitt and opened in 1999. Brock made up for her size with ball-handing skills, court savvy, a sure shot and grit.
“Yeah, Debbie was tiny but she was a tough nut,” says Hall of Fame coach Van Chancellor, who coached against her. “She’s one of those old-time players who could still play today. She was really, really quick and you hear it all the time, but she really was like having a coach on the floor. She had great anticipation. She understood the game. You just can’t believe how smart she was on the basketball floor.
“Delta State had a bunch of girls who could shoot and they had Lucy, who was a great player in the post,” Chancellor continued. “Debbie was the perfect point guard for that team. She got the ball where it needed to be. She got the ball to her teammates at the right spot on the floor. You couldn’t press them, because she would dribble through the press by herself.”
Chancellor paused before continuing, “Delta State would have never won those three championships if it hadn’t been for Debbie Brock. That’s just a fact.”
Brock’s skills came from growing up in the household of Coach James N. “Dump” Brock, a Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Famer. James Brock coached boys teams at Forest Hill. His daughter, while still in elementary school, would entertain Forest Hill crowds at halftime with her ball-handling skills. She could dribble the ball behind her back and between her legs while twirling a baton. She would shoot for hours at the goal at the Brock house, perfecting her shooting skills with either hand. She even kept notebooks that detailed her shooting workouts.
“I remember one time, I was out there shooting when Daddy got home from practice,” Debbie said. “I had made about 15 shots in a row and then, just as he drove up, I missed one, in and out. He got out of the car and started into the house, and said, ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do about your shot.’”
So, the little girl just worked harder.
“Everything I did, I did to please him and make him proud,” she said. “I just wish he were here for this.”
Coach Brock died last September. He knew his daughter had been nominated for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. “He was so excited,” Debbie said. “He was so supportive in everything I ever did. So was my mama. I just feel like, now, they are looking down, and I know they are pleased.”
Debbie Brock said her first reaction to the recent news was simply shock.
“I was so surprised,” she said. “I mean, it’s been 43 years since I played. I was just so proud to have been nominated, and now this…I just can’t believe it. Obviously, I’m proud but I am also proud for Delta State, for my teammates and for what we accomplished.”
She will be the third Lady Statesmen from that era to be inducted, including Harris and coach Margaret Wade.
Young people should know those weren’t small college championships. It wasn’t Division II. No, in those AIAW days, before the NCAA sanctioned women’s basketball, Delta State competed at the highest level. One year, the Lady Statesmen defeated Summitt and Tennessee in the semifinals and then LSU in the championship game. They routinely beat teams such as UCLA. Back then, they owned Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss.
Said Chancellor, who rose to national fame at Ole Miss and then coached the Houston Comets to the first four WNBA championships, “This is just such a wonderful thing. Those Delta State teams were true pioneers of the sport. They elevated the sport. They made a difference. Our younger players don’t realize what they went through, riding in vans, barely having enough money for uniforms, eating at McDonald’s on the road. Now, teams charter jets to games, stay at the finest hotels and go first class. It wasn’t always that way. It’s just great to see someone who made a difference in the sport finally get rewarded.”