DePaul Hall of Fame Class of 2013: Rita Hale
Jan. 10, 2013
(First in a series of feature stories portraying the Class of 2013 inductees into the DePaul Athletic Hall of Fame)
"Get her lil' bit!"
Her Marshall High School coach, Dorothy Gaters, yelling her nickname from the stands is what Rita Hale remembers most vividly about the game in which she guarded Lisa Leslie.
She remembers winning, of course, but doesn't recall kick-starting the late 12-0 run - with four of her team-high 17 points - as the Blue Demons roared back to win 62-54 over the country's ninth-ranked team in the game's closing minutes.
"I never even knew who Lisa Leslie was until tip-off and the videos we used to watch before the game," said Hale, who received the unenviable task of trying to slow down a future three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player and possibly the most dominant post to ever play women's basketball. "I can't remember if I shut her down, but I do remember us winning and beating a top-10 ranked team and me sticking with a girl I thought was about 6-foot-9."
Leslie was actually listed at 6-5 and scored a game-high 21 points, but it was Hale who led the Blue Demons to the championship of the Coopers and Lybrand Invitational on that December day in 1992. It was just one feat on a laundry list of career highlights for Hale, who spent her time at DePaul leading the Blue Demons to many noteworthy accomplishments.
A 5-9 forward from Marshall, a West Side Chicago high school featured in the 1994 basketball documentary, Hoop Dreams, Hale came from a storied high school program and helped lay the groundwork for DePaul's remarkable NCAA Tournament success of the past 20-plus years. And although she had chances to play elsewhere, Hale never seriously considered leaving Chicagoland to play college ball.
"[Coming to DePaul was] one of the best decisions I have made in my life," said Hale. "During the recruiting period, I was always telling Doug that I wasn't for sure where I was going, but I only knew that I wanted to stay close to home. All the time I knew it was DePaul."
Once she arrived in Lincoln Park, the Blue Demon women's basketball program immediately began to soar to new heights.
From 1990 until her senior year in 1993, Hale and the Blue Demons never failed to appear in the NCAA tournament - one of just 18 programs in the nation to reach the tourney during that four-year stretch. She was also a back-to-back All-Great Midwest selection during the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons, leading DePaul in scoring and rebounding during both campaigns.
Hale finished her storied career with 1,217 points, a number which stands 17th all-time at DePaul. In addition to the postseason success the Blue Demons achieved during her four years, Hale also helped DePaul to an 82-41 regular season record - including a 37-9 conference mark - over the course of her time with the program.
"During my years at DePaul, I played with players and coaches that did not like losing," said Hale. "Every night we came out to play and always gave 100 percent."
"My favorite memories of playing at DePaul were my family and friends being there to cheer us on and all the little kids in the Blue Demon Room afterwards wanting to take pictures with us and getting autographs."
After wrapping up her basketball career at DePaul and a degree in education, Hale began a teaching stint at Charles Evans Elementary School until leaving to join the Chicago Police Department, where she currently works in the 14th District as District Secretary.
Much like the night she helped take down Leslie and the Trojans, her induction is sure to be a source of pride and a night she won't ever forget.
"My family and I are very excited; I never imagined that this would happen," said Hale. "My family is coming in from Arkansas and Texas to witness the day."
NEXT: Terence Greene, Men's Basketball