Chamique Holdsclaw used a basketball forum Wednesday to deliver a life lesson.
The Tennessee Lady Vols legend was the featured speaker for the Big Orange Tipoff Club's final gathering of the season. She took the microphone in hand and spoke in a frank, sometimes emotional manner about battling depression and surviving a suicide attempt.
"The greatest impact I'm making is by using my voice,'' she said. "Of course that voice wouldn't be here without (me) having done tremendous things on a basketball court."
Holdsclaw was a four-time All-American at Tennessee and helped lead the Lady Vols to three consecutive national championships (1996-98). UT coach Pat Summitt and her coaching staff were in attendance Wednesday. So were the coaching staff's three secretaries — Katie Wynn, Cindy Connatser and Alberta Randles.
Holdsclaw still is Tennessee's all-time scoring leader with 3,025 points. She will be honored as an SEC great during the league's women's basketball tournament next week in Nashville. During the question-and-answer portion of Wednesday's program, she mentioned this honor and jokingly said, "It's going to be great sitting up there on that podium and looking at all the butts I kicked."
Holdsclaw came to UT from Astoria, N.Y., largely because of the relationship Summitt developed with Holdsclaw's grandmother, June. She told her granddaughter: "Chamique, across my dead body are you going to any other school."
Holdsclaw recalled how her life began to unravel after June died of a heart attack in 2002. She went through a lengthy battle with depression. She said that she attempted suicide by taking an overdose of antidepressant medication in 2006. At the time, she was trying to make a WNBA comeback with Los Angeles. Holdsclaw recalled hallucinating about "a cowboy with a lasso chasing me."
"When you keep stuff inside, it festers, it builds up,'' she said. "But as soon as you get it off your shoulders. It's like, it was like the rebirth of Chamique."
Holdsclaw began to find her voice through a speaking tour she participated in pertaining to mental health issues. She's now written and self-published a book about her life and has become a spokesperson for "Active Minds," a mental health organization that Holdsclaw said has chapters on 300 college campuses.
"I know you guys probably thought I was going to talk about jump shots and scoring all those points,'' Holdsclaw said. "... Nothing feels as good as the work that I'm doing now because I'm touching lives."
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