Julie Jones Venick (2011)

Women's athletics has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Women's college basketball is now a staple on television and there are more opportunities than ever before for female athletes.

Former Laurel Highlands basketball star Julie Jones Venick remembers a time when the opportunities weren't so abundant.


Jones Venick actually played on the boy‚s basketball team in her early years.

"We have come a long way,‰ Jones Venick offered. "In fact in elementary school at Hatfield I played on the boys team through sixth grade. They did not have a girls team.‰

Opportunities were very limited at time.

"That‚s true and I probably used that as a motivating factor,‰ she recalls. "I was a pretty competitive person ˆ so I didn‚t really look at it as not having enough. I think I used that to spur myself on at times.‰

She also came from a competitive family environment.

"At the time I was in high school I had two cousins playing division one basketball,‰ Jones Venick said. "The Yezbak boys ˆ Joey was playing at I think Florida International and leading the NCAA in scoring and George was at Cal State Fullerton as a back up point guard, but we had a lot of talented people in our family. My two uncles also played at Westminster.‰

She starred at Laurel Highlands under then coach Bob Hogan. She also had the influence of a Uniontown coaching legend early in her career.

"I actually did have the pleasure of having Abe Everhart coach me between my eighth grade and ninth grade years during summer league and undergraduate play that year,‰ Jones Venick stated."It had a big impact on me even though it was a very short amount of time to be under him. I remember he gave me this handout of do‚s and don‚ts and it was posted in my room through my whole high school career.‰

Laurel Highlands fielded some competitive teams during her four years under coach Hogan.

"We made the playoffs my freshman year,‰ she recalls. "That‚s when we had Alana Jackson and she was the big gun because she was a senior and I was just sort of this unknown freshman.They were keying mainly on Jackson and I was able to have a pretty successful freshman campaign. I know we made the playoffs again my senior year.

"The section that we were in with West Mifflin and Elizabeth Forward and through my high school career Elizabeth Forward had three division one players and West Mifflin had Tanya Garner who went to Penn State and the competition was great because we had a lot of division one and division two players go to college from our section.‰

Jones Venick posted some great numbers for the Fillies. She was a 1,000-point scorer and actually surpassed that mark during her junior season. She was All County and All Section for three straight seasons. She led the WPIAL in scoring as a senior at 27.6 ppg and was named to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette‚s Fabulous Five. She also lettered for four years in softball at LH.

"I had the scoring record for awhile until Candace John passed me,‰ Jones Venick said. "I was a pretty good three point shooter and we only had the three point shot my senior year and I had 99 three pointers which still might be a record.‰

She graduated in 1988 and feels playing AAU basketball got her noticed by college coaches.

"I‚m sure I was noticed because of AAU ball,‰ she explained. "AAU was around and I had to go to Pittsburgh and I played on a team coached by Paul Seneca and I‚m sure that got me the initial exposure.‰

Georgia, Richmond and Penn State came calling along with Ivy League schools.

"Richmond didn‚t really recruit me heavily,‰ she remembers. "My cousin had applied there and my aunt was harping in my parents ear about how beautiful the campus was and the academics were outstanding and I sent out some letters to other schools that I thought I might be interested in and of course my cousin Barry Taylor went to school at Richmond and Greg Beckwith who graduated with my brother played there.

"We knew a little bit about Richmond and I decided to go there. Once I went for my visit I knew that was the place and it worked out great.‰

Jones Venick started every game during her career at Richmond and had a very solid career. A co- captain as a senior she tallied 1,521 points in her career an average of 12.4 ppg ˆ including reaching double figures 87 times.

For her career she was 309 of 712 on three pointers for sparking 43.4 percent. The Spiders were 94-29 during her four seasons.

She helped Richmond earn 3 post-season berths, two NCAA tournaments and one WNIT. At the time of graduation in 1992, she held the following spots on the All-Time Division 1 Women's Record list: #2 for 3 pointers made, 309 (#1, 317); #7 for 3 point percentage, 43.4%, and #8 for 3 pointers made per game, 2.51. After almost 20 years, remains in Top 25 for all-time 3 pointers made (18th) and 3 point percentage (23rd).

"When I got to Richmond the girl that was in my position ahead of me was academically ineligible,‰ she recalled. "So I was thrown in, but I took advantage of that opportunity and never relinquished that spot.‰

She had a real highlight during her senior year.

"I was invited to the Final Four for that three point shootout,‰ Jones Venick explained. "It was the first year that they included girls and we were the first group and there were eight of us. It was fantastic and we went to Minneapolis and it was incredible. I was great till the cameras started rolling and I guess I got stage fright and I choked.‰

She had an opportunity after graduation in 1992 to try pro ball but decided against it.

"My coach my senior season Tammy Holder ˆ her family is big with the Ukrops food stores and it was just about the time that the ABL started and the Richmond Rage was the new team and they actually wanted Tammy Holder, my coach to become the General Manager/coach of the team and she wanted me to play, but honestly I was tired and I was ready to give it up.‰

She decided to pursue a teaching career, and came back and was a substitute teacher for several years. She got an opportunity to help out on the women‚s basketball coaching staff at Waynesburg College.

"The first year I was there was 1993-94 and Rob Phillips was the head coach,‰ Jones Venick stated. "I did that for one year and then he left and Rudy Marisa asked me to become head coach and I coached there for three years and we made it to the NCAA division III tournament and had a terrific first round experience down at Salisbury MD where we made the winning shot with 0.2 seconds left.
"Waynesburg decided not to renew my contract ˆ so it was short lived. It was a big disappointment, but things happen for a reason and I ended up getting my fulltime teaching job after one more year of subbing and I‚m teaching English at Laurel Highlands.‰

Jones Venick has been married ten years to her husband Jerome and they have two older stepchildren Ben and Jessalyn.


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