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100 days of Kansas City-area Olympians: Trish Roberts, basketball

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Posted at 2:15 PM, Jun 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-10 15:15:27-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Trish Roberts is a University of Tennessee basketball legend.

But before she set the single-season and single-game scoring records for the Volunteers, Roberts was a star for the upstart Emporia State University women’s basketball team.

She also helped the U.S. win a silver medal during the inaugural Olympic women’s basketball tournament during the 1976 Montreal Games.

Roberts, a native of Monroe, Georgia, started her college basketball career at North Georgia State College for one season before transferring to Emporia State.

During the Hornets’ inaugural season in 1974-75, Roberts averaged 23.1 points and 13.7 rebounds, leading ESU to a fourth-place finish at the National AIAW Small College Women’s Basketball Tournament.

As a junior in her second season with Emporia State, Roberts averaged 27.8 points and 12.7 rebounds. She still owns Hornets records for most made field goals in a season (305) and field-goal percentage (64.3%).

The summer after that season, Roberts was the third-leading scorer for the U.S. team at the Olympics, which allowed women’s basketball for the first time.

The Soviet Union claimed the gold medal.

Roberts averaged 12.0 points and shot 52.3% from the field, which both ranked 14th among all Olympians.

She scored 14 points with five rebounds against Japan, scored 16 against Bulgaria, chipped in 11 against Canada,scored nine points with six rebounds against the Soviets, and finished with 10 points against Czechoslovakia.

After the Olympics, Roberts transferred to Tennessee, where she averaged a still-standing school-records of 29.9 points and 14.2 rebounds per game in 1976-77.

Her 987 points and 467 rebounds that season also remain single-season Volunteers records, while her 64.7% shooting percentage is the top career mark in program history.

Roberts still owns single-game Tennessee records for points (51), field goals (24), field-goal attempts (31), rebounds (24).

In fact, Roberts owns the four highest single-game totals for made field goals and six of the 10 games in Tennessee history with 16-plus made field goals.

She also owns three of the five 40-point games and five of the 11 20-rebound games in program history.

Roberts was chosen as an All-American and won the Tennessee Female Athlete of the Year Year in her only season with the Vols.

After college, Roberts played four seasons professionally for the Minnesota Fillies and St. Louis Streak in the Women’s Professional Basketball League.

She was a player and interim coach for the Fillies in 1979 and earned All-Pro honors in 1981.

Once her playing career wrapped up, Roberts went into coaching. She had assistant coaching stints with Central Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and North Carolina from 1982-88.

She was hired as Maine’s head coach in August 1988, going 82-32 with one appearance in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament in four seasons.

Roberts spent the next four seasons at Michigan, where her teams went 20-88 and she was dogged by allegations of abusive conduct toward players.

She spent one season coaching the Atlanta Glory to an 18-22 record before returning to the college ranks at Stony Brook and Agnes Scott.

Roberts was inducted into the ESU Hall of Fame in 1993, the Women in Sports and Education Hall of Fame in 1996, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Tennessee Lady Volunteer Hall of Fame in 2003.

The Kansas City region has a deep, rich history with respect to the Olympic Games. As the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games approach with the Opening Ceremony scheduled for July 23, we will profile an athlete with ties to Kansas City, Missouri or Kansas each day.

41 Action News and KSHB.com is your home of the Tokyo Olympics. Follow our coverage at kshb.com/sports/olympics and check out our complete list of 100 Kansas City-area Olympians as it is revealed.

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