Hall Pass Spotlight:
NCSHOF MEMBER (Class of 2017)
By HELEN ROSS
So what if the WNBA wouldn’t become a reality for nearly a decade? Chasity Melvin had big dreams, and the 11-year-old wasn’t going to let details get in the way.
“Once I started playing, I used to tell my mother I was going to play pro,” Melvin recalled in a 2020 Fayetteville Observer article. “Mom told me, ‘They don’t have pros for women.’
“I said, ‘Don’t worry, they will.’”
Sure enough, when Melvin graduated from N.C. State in 1999 there was not one but two pro leagues for women. The 6-foot-3 All-American was drafted No. 2 by the Philadelphia Rage of the ABL and played three months before the league folded. Luckily, the WNBA had more staying power and after being picked 11th by the Cleveland Rockers, Melvin went on to a successful career that took her around the globe.
The pioneering Roseboro native played a total of 12 years with the Rockers, the Washington Mystics and the Chicago Sky, averaging 9.7 points and 5.4 rebounds for her career and making the WNBA All-Star team in 2001. Melvin, who grew up in a town of less than 1,000 people, also was able to expand her horizons, playing in Italy, Israel, Spain, Poland, Russia, Korea, Turkey and China, winning championships with the first four teams.
She was often the lone American on the team – a far cry from the talented but somewhat shy teenager who played with two of her sisters on a Lakewood High team that won the NCHSAA 1-A title. In fact, Chasity scored 37 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in the state championship game, earning MVP honors in Lakewood’s victory over Murphy in the 1994 final.
By the time she started getting her passport stamped so regularly, though, Melvin had grown into a confident young woman who enjoyed learning about different cultures.
“I was in a high school, graduating class of 92 kids,” Melvin told WRAL in 2017 when she was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. “And so, to go overseas and travel and just learn different things and experience different languages and different foods, and it was, it was just an amazing experience.
“But they really are passionate over there about basketball. …. It’s just the environment you can’t really put into words, but I learned a lot and it was a tremendous honor to play over there.”
Melvin would undoubtedly say the same about her career at N.C. State. Although she was recruited by schools around the country, the final decision came down to whether she would play for the Wolfpack’s Kay Yow or Sylvia Hatchell of North Carolina. She told WRAL that it went down to the wire but in the end, one thing swayed her.
“Just her faith,” Melvin said of Yow. “My dad’s a minister. I have a strong faith, and we just really connected on that level and that kind of just pushed it over.”
Her late mentor Yow, Melvin told WRAL, “taught me everything I know about the game, how to be a professional on the court, as well as off the court.” Melvin’s years at N.C. State were transformative – both for her and the program as the Wolfpack made four NCAA tournament appearances, including State’s first Final Four appearance in 1998. Melvin, who scored 37 points in that semifinal loss, earned All-America honors that year.
In 2014, Melvin, who earned a degree in mass communications, was inducted into the N.C. State Athletic Hall of Fame. She was the first woman to score 2,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds in her Wolfpack career and was selected to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 50th anniversary team, as well.
Melvin has made her mark as a coach, too. She is a product of the NBA Player Development department’s Assistant Coaches Program and has worked with several WNBA teams, as well as the Greensboro Swarm in the NBA’s G-League.
Melvin is also a Certified Life Coach and published author. She wrote and self-published “At The End of The Day: A Devotional Memoir,” a series of 40 stories about her life and favorite scripture verses after she retired from competition.
THE FIRST TWO WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PLAYERS IN THE NCSHOF
Chasity Melvin’s rise to prominence as a basketball player followed a fairly familiar arc.
She was a high school star at Lakewood High School in Roseboro, went on to be an All-American at North Carolina State University, and then had a tremendous career in professional basketball.
However, that familiar arc has only recently become available to female athletes. In fact, the first two female basketball players inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame didn’t follow that pattern at all and took a very different basketball route.
Eunies Futch and Eckie Jordan both joined the NCSHOF in 1990, and they combined to play on one of the greatest women’s basketball teams of their era but they were very different players, even though they were best friends.
Futch and Jordan played for the powerhouse Hanes Hosiery teams based in Winston-Salem in Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) competition, when most high schools and very few colleges had women’s teams. Their teams won the AAU national championship in 1951, ‘52 and ‘53 and won an incredible 102 consecutive games. Over a four-year stretch they posted records of 29-7, 36-0, 37-0, and 27-1.
A native of Jacksonville, FL, Futch was a towering (for the era) 6-3 center and won the 1953 Teague Award as the top female athlete in the Carolinas. Also a star softball pitcher for Hanes Hosiery, she is a member of the North Carolina Softball Hall of Fame as well.
Jordan was a feisty star player who stood only 5-2, and the diminutive guard was a five-time AAU all-American who is also a member of the Helms Foundation Hall of Fame. The native of Pelzer, S.C., who had led her high school team to a state championship, also excelled in softball and tennis.
Both Futch and Jordan played on the team representing the United States in the 1955 Pan American Games in Mexico City, the first female-inclusive games, and won the gold medal there. “It still gives me the chills,” Eckie recalled in 1999 as she talked about the Pan-Am Games. “There were 100,000 people cheering in the stands. It was a wonderful feeling to know you were representing your country.”
Those two have also done a wonderful job of representing North Carolina, and those AAU teams sponsored by businesses when there wasn’t women’s college basketball are also a part of the tradition of sports in the Old North State.