Progress clear to Georgeann Wells
First woman to dunk sees Title IX's impact via her daughter, Maddison Blackwell
The first woman to dunk in an NCAA basketball game visited the college home of the world's most famous dunker last month.
But Georgeann Wells wasn't at the University of North Carolina to pay homage to Michael Jordan. Instead, she was traveling to another national AAU tournament with her daughter, Maddison Blackwell, an ESPN HoopGurlz four-star recruit.
Wells also played AAU basketball before becoming a star at West Virginia. But -- unlike Blackwell, a 6-foot-1 wing who recently played at the Deep South Classic in Chapel Hill, N.C., with the Capital City Comets -- she never left her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, to do it.
"It's just crazy what they do in AAU now," the 6-7 Wells said. "They're all over the place. It seems like professional sports for high schoolers."
Not that Wells is complaining. She loves seeing how much progress has been made in girls' basketball, as players like her daughter can face off against top competition while putting added emphasis on strength training and conditioning.
"It's just a different caliber of basketball," Wells said. "This AAU stuff is just so jam-packed with excitement, and the girls are developing and creating stuff they didn't even think they could do."
Wells credits Title IX.
"I think it's the best thing that ever happened to women's sports," Wells said. "Being able to play and compete at some of the levels that they're at now, it's just a great thing."
When Wells became the first female dunker in 1984, she accomplished the feat against two schools -- Charleston (W.Va.) and Xavier.
Ironically, Blackwell recently gave a verbal commitment to Xavier after also considering a handful of other schools, including Michigan and Akron.
"The coaching staff just made me feel welcomed," Blackwell said. "They were with me every step of the way."
The recruiting process was another change of pace for Wells. Though she received interest from all the major programs, Wells made just two visits, to West Virginia and to her hometown school, Ohio State. Wells' father chose West Virginia because the school also agreed to take Georgeann's older sister.
Blackwell, a rising senior at Lincoln (Gahanna, Ohio), was allowed to make her own decision.
"It's more relaxing going into my senior year knowing that I know where I'm going," Blackwell said.
The film of Wells' first dunk, at Charleston, was unveiled only recently. West Virginia didn't bring its bulky taping equipment on the road, and the Charleston coach was too embarrassed to hand over his own film to the victors.
But the Wells family finally saw the video three years ago, and it inspired Blackwell to publicly declare that she, too, would throw one down in a game.
Though she's six inches shorter than her mother, Blackwell hasn't backed down.
"It's not where I want it to be, but it's moving along," said Blackwell, who does specific leg exercises to work on her jumping ability. "I'm pretty close without the ball. One day I'm hoping I'll get the momentum to do it."
In the meantime, her strength training is coming in handy on the court. She's athletic enough to break the press as a point guard, but she's also powerful enough to play as a forward.
"I see it, even messing around while playing with her," Wells said. "The strength that they have now compared to when I played then, it's crazy. My daughter can hold me back and I'm thinking, 'For real?'
"The training and conditioning is so intense and the skill level is so advanced from when I played."
Wells hasn't given up hope that her daughter will eventually dunk for Xavier. She was impressed with how far up Blackwell got on the backboard during a recent layup drill.
"She has a lot further to go, but she's like, 'I got this,'" Wells said. "I'm like, 'Well, we better work on it because you told everyone you're going to do it.'"
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