Barbara Farris to be Inducted into Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame park
Dobee Plaisance was coaching a girls' AAU team in the summer of 1991. She knew she had something special in an awkward six-foot, two-inch 13-year old. That 13-year old was Barbara Farris; and Plaisance was right about having something special.
"I drove her hard," says Plaisance. "She continued to develop, and I thought she could have the opportunity to play at the next level and maybe even the level after that."
Right again. Farris had a bright – no make that brilliant – future. She went from St. Martin's to Tulane University to the WNBA to travelling the world in summer ball.
And now she's a Hall of Famer. Farris will be the third of four standout local athletes to be inducted into the Allstate Sugar Bowl's Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, August 5, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Each year's Hall of Fame class is selected by the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee, a group of current and former media members who annually recognize a variety of award-winners, including the Corbett Awards and the Eddie Robinson Award. The group also selects the Greater New Orleans Amateur Athlete of the Month each month.
A total of 23 individuals, including this year's Hall of Fame class (Farris joins Dean Courtade, J.T. Curtis and one additional honoree who will be announced tomorrow), and three teams will be honored at this year's banquet.
Including the Class of 2017, a total of 227 sports figures have been inducted into the Sugar Bowl/Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame since it was created in 1971. Farris is the third person in the sport of women's basketball to be inducted.
The dream started while watching TV with her father, Alvin. "He loved to watch the Lakers." says Farris. "I was a big fan of the Georgetown Hoyas."
Farris needed little convincing to play for Plaisance at St. Martin's. During her three years there, she was a two-time All-Louisiana high school player. Farris led her team to back-to-back state titles as well as a perfect record when she was a junior. A two-sport star in high school, she helped St. Martin's to two more state titles in track, specializing in the shot put and discus.
She had multiple choices of where to continue her basketball career in college. She visited Florida, Maryland and George Mason before selecting Tulane. She was to become one of the greatest female athletes in Tulane history.
"I loved my time at Tulane," says Farris. "I loved every minute of it."
And Tulane loved her right back. In the upshot of four outstanding years of college basketball, Farris was inducted into the Tulane Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004. She has kept a close relationship with the University, often speaking to teams as well as players in the mentoring program started by Tulane coach Lisa Stockton.
Farris led the Green Wave to one of their most successful eras in the school's basketball history; the Green Wave played in four consecutive NCAA tournaments. Averaging 16.7 points and 6.8 rebounds in her career, she was the only player in Tulane history to achieve all-conference accolades for four years.
Farris was an WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-American in her junior year after leading the Wave to a 27-5 record, the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles, and a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.
Farris still holds the school's all-time career field goal percentage record (660 of 1035, 63.7 pct.). After starting 114 games and scoring 1,729 points, she had Tulane's second-highest career totals of total rebounds (939), offensive rebounds (351), defensive rebounds (588), free throws made (408), and free throws attempted (684).
"Barbara has had a tremendous influence on girls basketball in the New Orleans area," Stockton said. "Her accomplishments as a high school, college and professional player, as well as a high school coach, are unmatched. We are so proud to have been a part of Barbara's journey and wish her a big congratulations for her induction into the New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame!"
She launched her 10-year WNBA career with the Detroit Shock. After playing her first six seasons for Detroit, Farris joined the New York Liberty for the 2006 and 2007 campaigns, followed by one year with the Phoenix Mercury before returning to Detroit in 2009.
She played in more than 280 games and helped her teams advance to the playoffs five times. Her Detroit team won the WNBA Championship under Coach Bill Lambeer in 2003.
Plaisance was glued to the TV for that one, rooting for her former star. "I swear, the confetti was still falling when she called me and thanked me," says Plaisance. "That is so typical of Barbara, thinking of somebody else even then."
Kari Pardoe, who was working in the Pistons/Shock community relations department, put Farris's "thinking of somebody else" into another perspective. Their paths crossed when Farris volunteered for the team's outreach projects.
"She visited cancer patients at the hospital," said Pardoe. "She helped a needy family for Christmas. Typical of Barbara, she didn't just give them money, she went shopping for them and helped wrap the gifts and put them under the tree."
The biggest team mission, however, was to her hometown. News coverage of the devastation from Hurricane Katrina had Pardoe and Farris in tears. The team sent furniture and other goods on two planes with players and other personnel, including the two. "When we first got there and looked around, we were in shock," says Pardoe. "The water lines on the houses' you will remember that for life."
"I was devastated," says Farris. "I will never forget seeing those families sitting outside in the heat, just waiting and hoping for food and water. I knew my family was okay and I was happy about that. But it made you ask, ‘Why me? Why am I so lucky.'"
Farris's professional basketball career carried her world-wide. In addition to her playing time domestically, she spent three winter seasons in France, three in Spain, and one in South Korea as well as playing half-seasons in Greece, Turkey and the Czech Republic.
Farris returned to the Liberty for two years as an assistant coach, and she started her prep coaching career with former Tulane teammate Mary Ann Marino at Bonnabel High School for the 2009-10 season. She accepted the position as head coach at John Curtis Christian School the following year. Farris has guided two of her Lady Patriot teams to state championships, teaching some of those early lessons she learned under Dobee Plaisance.
Story by Bill Curl of the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee.