Notre Dame's Cunningham honored at Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame
NEW CASTLE, Ind. - It has been a month full of celebration since Notre Dame women's basketball won the national championship on April 1.
Associate coach Beth Cunningham has been celebrating right alongside her team, but will be honored individually this weekend at the Indiana basketball Hall of Fame.
“I'm certainly honored, but I had to laugh because that basically means I’m old enough now," she joked. "You have to be out 25 years and qualify for it so that dates me a little bit.”
Cunningham is one of 18 women named to the 2018 Silver Anniversary Team, compiled of former high school basketball standouts that graduated 25 years ago in the Class of 1993.
A star at Bloomington South, Cunningham (then Beth Morgan) set the all-time points record in Monroe County with 1,645 and was named an Indiana All-Star and a Nike All-American among several other honors. Through it all, she knew how special it was to be successful at this game, and in this state.
"I remember we moved to Indiana when I was in third grade and my dad said ‘this is what the state is known for, is its basketball,'" she said. "To be recognized at the Hall of Fame weekend of the Silver Anniversary team is truly an honor, especially in a state where we truly value our basketball and think we have the best here."
Her journey went far beyond graduation in 1993.
Cunningham then continued her playing career at Notre Dame, where she became the first women's basketball player to score 2,000 points for the Irish and led the team to its first-ever trip to the Final Four in 1997.
She later played professionally with the Washington Mystics in the WNBA before embarking on a coaching career. She's now the all-time leader in coaching wins at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she coached before joining Notre Dame's staff.
"It’s everything to me," she said. "I left Bloomington to come four hours North, but I had an opportunity to go away to school and do something not everybody got to do and it was because of basketball."
Now with a championship-caliber squad each season in South Bend, Cunningham relishes any chance to reunite with former teammates and friends.
"[I can't wait to ] have the opportunity to catch up with people I played with and against. We get so busy in our daily lives with this basketball program, you don’t really get that opportunity to do many reunions so I’m really looking forward to seeing everybody."
Cunningham is one of several local connections to this year's Silver Anniversary Team.
Concord's Alana Burns scored 1,440 points in her career, averaging 24 points and 11 rebounds her senior season in 1993. She went on to play 46 games over four seasons at Michigan State, where the Spartans won the Big Ten title her senior year.
Penn's Alicia Harkins was named Team MVP following an ACL injury the year before. She averaged more than 15 points per game in her final high school season, before playing at Kankakee Community College then starring at Southern Illinois Edwardsville, scoring 1,268 points in three seasons. Harkins has since returned to the Michiana basketball community, first coaching at Mishawaka and now serving as the current Jimtown girls basketball coach.
LaVille's Andrea Lehr was named a first-team All-State selection in her senior season. She was named All-Conference four times and Team MVP three times in a career that ended with Lehr setting the Indiana's single-season and career records for three-pointers. She also set the LaVille school scoring record, with 1,391 points. Lehr went on to play at Indiana Weslyan, eclipsing the 1,000-point milestone and setting a record for career assists.