By Gary Curreri
Being named to the University of Miami’s Hall of Fame in 2008 was one thing, but Octavia Blue was humbled on Sunday when her #10 jersey was retired by the school prior to the team’s 67-56 overtime victory over Virginia Tech at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables.
“It was an awesome day,” Blue said. “It was really special.”
The University of Miami retired assistant coach Blue’s jersey before the game. She is the fourth player in program history to receive the honor, joining Maria Rivera, Frances Savage and Tamara James.
Blue’s 2008 Hall of Fame class included President’s Cup golfer Woody Austin, basketball stars Octavia Blue and Mike Wittman, football’s Jeff Feagles, Randal “Thrill” Hill and K.C. Jones, Golden Spikes winner Pat Burrell and Olympic diving medalist Wendy Williams.
“The Hall of Fame was awesome,” Blue said. “There is a 10-year gap after you finish playing before you can be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Right at my 10th year, they put me in. That was an unbelievable honor. I got in with a great class. I was surprised and honored to be inducted with them.”
“(Sunday) was crazy,” Blue added. “It felt like 10 times more special. I don’t like to compare the two because they are both great honors, but when you go into the Hall of Fame there are basically eight to 10 of you going in and when you get your jersey retired, they are singling you out. It makes you look back and reflect over your whole career with all of the people who have been involved in your development and helped, had a hand in your success as an individual. It all came together and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was a really proud moment for me.”
Blue played with the Hurricanes from 1994-98 and still sits in seventh place on Miami’s all-time scoring list with 1,724 career points. She also ranks seventh in career field goals made with 671.
After her Miami career ended, Blue was the 15th overall draft pick by the Los Angeles Sparks in the 1998 WNBA Draft.
Blue went on to play with the Sparks and the Houston Comets, as well as playing professionally overseas with stops in Turkey, Greece, Israel, Poland, and France before beginning her coaching career.
Coaching took her to St. Thomas, St. John’s and Georgia Tech universities before she returned to Miami and joined coach Katie Meier’s staff in 2012.
Admittedly, Blue was a “late bloomer.” She was an eighth-grader at Nova Middle School when the girls’ basketball coach saw her shooting baskets in a PE class and convinced her to give the sport a try. She went on to star during her high school career at Nova High School and earned a scholarship at the University of Miami.
“When I got to high school, I was really good at it, but I was really raw,” said the 39-year-old Blue. “I didn’t have skill. I just had natural ability and that actually landed me at the University of Miami.
“When you start off so young, it could probably get stale because you have played so long, but it was still very new and fresh to me and I was excited about the game and that is how I played,” she continued. “All of that passion enabled me to get a college scholarship and, from then on, the successes just kept piling up. The opportunities kept presenting themselves.”
When the WNBA was founded in 1997, Blue knew it was something she wanted to pursue. After an Achilles tendon injury cut short her professional playing career, Blue had no aspirations of coaching. Her former college coach convinced her to coach the post players at St. Thomas University and that led to her Division 1 stints.
“For the players I coach now, it is something I tell them to strive and try to be the best in anything you put your hands in,” said Blue, Hurricanes’ recruiting coordinator and is responsible for the development of Miami’s post players. “There is so much more to accomplish.
“For me, I want to continue to inspire young people and that’s why we coach,” said Blue, who hopes to be a Division 1 head coach someday. “When you are 18 to 22, those are the years you are in college and those are the most impressionable years of their lives. That’s what coaches and teachers, and educators, do. We help mold young people. I want to continue to do that and be a role model and a model citizen, and good things will come.”
Her recognition on Sunday will last a while.
“(Sunday) had to be at the top of the list of anything of anything that ever happened to me,” she said. “Obviously, I love the University of Miami. I had so much support from family and friends. I had people come from Deerfield Beach. People that I have known since I was 6 years old all the way up to my agent who managed my professional career – she flew down from New York. So many people who have helped me along the way were all there to celebrate that special moment with me – my family, my mother … it was just really special and a nice honor.”