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TMCNet:  Daily News, Los Angeles, Jill Painter column

[November 09, 2012]

Daily News, Los Angeles, Jill Painter column

Nov 09, 2012 (Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- When Ann Meyers Drysdale returns to the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion for the women's basketball opener Saturday, she'll recall when she attended games as a high school girl to watch her brother David play for John Wooden.


She didn't dream of earning a scholarship to play basketball there because there was no such thing back then. She had grand dreams and was such a talented athlete that she played sports with the boys, but there was no blueprint for her to earn a scholarship with the Bruins.

But in 1972, Title IX was passed, and Meyers Drysdale became the first female athlete to earn a scholarship at UCLA.

It's been 40 years since Title IX made opportunities for girls, and Meyers Drysdale will be honored Saturday as one of UCLA's top 40 female athletes in history.

"I was just a high school kid going to games, and it was a highlight for me," Meyers Drysdale said. "It was an introduction to Wooden and his family, Pauley Pavilion and UCLA.

"We didn't have that opportunity. Nobody understood what Title IX was. I didn't know I would go play basketball there. Everything I got to do was something special. Everything just fell into place with the things that happened to me, being in that atmosphere in the '70s at UCLA." It was gold, being at UCLA. Meyers Drysdale was one of 11 children, and earning a scholarship provided a way for her to earn her education and a route to continue playing basketball.

Meyers Drysdale, 57, has accomplished much in her life, but one of her most notable feats is that she was the first female athlete to receive an athletic scholarship.

No one was before her. So many have followed her.

"Title IX is a huge part of my life," Meyers Drysdale said in a phone interview. "I come from a generation where there are no limits. I read a book by Babe Didrickson and she became an idol.

"Billie Jean King didn't have Title IX or Wilma Rudolph. My sister Patty was the oldest of 11 and I constantly saw her playing basketball and volleyball and softball.

"My parents encouraged us to compete just as much as our brothers. I personally didn't have limits. I hear women say, 'We didn't have this, and we didn't have that.' You make your opportunities." Meyers Drysdale, who graduated from UCLA in 1978, has been a success in all she's done. She was the first player drafted in the WBL and signed a $50,000 contract with the Indiana Pacers in 1979, which was a huge deal, but she didn't last longer than the three-day tryout. Still she's an Olympian, a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer and has had a successful broadcast career.

She's currently the general manager of the Phoenix Mercury and a member of the Phoenix Suns broadcast team.

She lives in Arizona, but still has a house in Huntington Beach.

Meyers Drysdale has done a tour of events for the 40th anniversary of Title IX, including a luncheon Wednesday at Arizona State. She wonders why such publicity didn't happen for the 25th and 30th anniversaries.

In her office in Phoenix, she has a picture of her late husband, former Dodgers star Don Drysdale, pitching, and one of her, in her UCLA basketball uniform, rebounding. She has Wooden's Pyramid of Success -- the children's version -- there, and pictures of her three children.

Meyers Drysdale recently authored a book about her life, titled "You Let Some Girl Beat You " It took a while for the title, one posed by co-author Joni Ravenna, to warm to her.

As for what she hopes readers exact from her book, she said: "Inspiration. Anything is possible. There's so many life lessons through Pappa (Wooden) and his family and my brothers and sisters.

"Everybody faces adversity. It's how you handle it. This is a tribute to everybody who has touched my life." She tells young girls to "be proud of who you are and who you're representing. You're always representing your family and your country. There's so many things you need to be proud of, the opportunities you were given. Title IX mandated that doors be open for women. When you have opportunities, go ahead and take them. Don't look back and ask, 'What if ' Success is peace of mind that you did your best." That's a Wooden maxim. Meyers Drysdale knew Wooden and his family so well that she refers to him as "Pappa." She was also chosen by UCLA and the Wooden family to be master of ceremonies for the recent unveiling of the Wooden statue outside Pauley Pavilion, an honor of which she is most proud.

On Saturday, she'll return for the Title IX ceremony and recognition in Westwood, where it all started at UCLA watching her All-American brother.

"It's wonderful what UCLA is doing and most schools throughout the country are doing," Meyers Drysdale said. "I'm proud to be amongst those women who were instrumental in women's sports." jill.painter@dailynews.com twitter.com/jillpainter ___ (c)2012 the Daily News (Los Angeles) Visit the Daily News (Los Angeles) at www.dailynews.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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