Lyons-Wilson getting her due at WCU

By Jamie Combs

   If the college basketball career of Lori Lyons-Wilson had been a violin, her performance would have likely earned her a seat with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall.
   It was just that good.
   Her achievements were not forgotten when the Western Carolina University Department of Athletics recently named its Hall of Fame class for 2002. Lyons-Wilson was one of four people selected for induction, with enshrinement set for later this year.
   "I never thought about it at all," said Lyons-Wilson when asked if she ever expected to be picked for the honor. "(The possibility) never occurred to me. I didn't even know I had been nominated. I was very surprised. It was a big shock."
   For Lyons-Wilson, it's understandable if the announcement is also a tad overwhelming. A little less than six months ago, she entered the Elizabethton High Hall of Fame.
   "I was quite surprised when I went into the Elizabethton High Hall of Fame," said Lyons-Wilson, who starred on the court for the Lady Cyclones in the late '80s and became one of the best-ever players from Northeast Tennessee. "To get two (inductions) in one year is pretty special."
   During her time with the Lady Cats (1990-93), Lyons-Wilson made her presence strongly felt.
   A first-team All-Southern Conference selection in '93, she set the tone for that achievement by earning Southern Conference All-Tournament honors in '92.
   Her career free-throw shooting percentage (.795) and single-season free-throw shooting percentage (.891) are still tops in Western Carolina history. Furthermore, she ranks eighth on the WCU career scoring list with 1,249 points, owns four SoCon scoring records and was a three-time SoCon Player of the Week.
   Not to be swept under the carpet is her 48-point eruption -- still a SoCon and WCU single-game scoring record -- against East Tennessee State in '93. That performance holds added meaning for Lyons-Wilson, whose potential ETSU clearly underestimated when she came out of EHS.
   The Lady Bucs passed on Lyons-Wilson, and she exploited their mistake.
   "I don't hold anything against ETSU," said Lyons-Wilson, now a Lady Cyclone assistant coach under her husband and her former high school coach, Mike Wilson. "Now that I'm helping Mike coach and I see a lot of kids, I kind of see where ETSU might have been coming from at the time. They didn't know what I was going to do three or four years from then.
   "I was average height for a post player, so I can understand why they didn't take me. I was pleased that Western gave me an opportunity, but it was more special to break those records against ETSU."
   Add in the fact that Lyons-Wilson graduated from Western with a 3.5 grade-point average, becoming a 1992 Academic All-American along the way, and it's plain to see why she has a Hall of Fame reservation in Cullowhee, N.C.
   "It makes you feel like it's a reward for everything you put into it," said Lyons-Wilson. "It makes me appreciate the things I had a little bit more now. At the time, I didn't think about it much. When I reflect on it, I had a good time and had some success. It does feel like the hard work paid off."
   Lyons-Wilson, Keith LeClair (baseball player and former head coach), Thomas "Bubba" Wilson (men's basketball) and Paul Jones (track and field athlete, and former head coach) will be enshrined during Hall of Fame Weekend in conjunction with the Catamounts' football game versus Georgia Southern on Oct. 12.