When people think of Ohio State women’s basketball history, the first name that comes to mind is normally that of Katie Smith and Smith is very deserving of being the face of the program thanks to her record setting career and distinction as being the first women’s basketball player at OSU to have her jersey retired. However Smith’s jersey isn’t the only women’s basketball jersey hanging from the Value City rafters; located next to Smith’s jersey is the #44 jersey worn by Tracey Hall who is one of the most under-appreciated Buckeyes in history.
The Big Ten started sponsoring a women’s basketball championship in the 1982-1983 and by the time that Tracey Hall arrived at Ohio State in the 1984-1985 season, the Buckeyes had already won the first two Big Ten titles and had made two appearances in the three year old NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Considering the strength of the OSU program one wouldn’t necessarily have expected a freshman forward from Cleveland Heights to make a huge impact right away. Hall quickly proved those expectations wrong, starting from day one in the scarlet and gray and leading the team in field goal percentage (60.1%) and rebounds (257 for an average of 8.3 per game). Her performance helped lead Ohio State to a 28-3 record (18-0 in the Big Ten), a conference title, and a trip to the NCAA Elite Eight. Hall’s performance earned her the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and got her 2nd team All-Big Ten honors.
Tracey Hall’s sophomore year would start with a bit of adversity as head coach Tara VanDerveer left (something that I to this day wish had not happened). OSU’s new coach was Nancy Darsch who had been an assistant at Tennessee. With a new coach at the helm there is always uncertainty as to how their style will mesh with the talents of the existing players. Fortunately Darsch saw the immense talent that Hall had and Tracey would thrive under Darsch for the next three seasons. Hall led the Buckeyes in scoring, field goal percentage, rebounds, blocks, and steals her sophomore and junior years, averaging almost a double-double both years. The Big Ten would honor Tracey for her performance by naming her Big Ten Player of the Year in both 1986 and 1987. Hall’s record setting performance her junior season, she set the OSU single season field goal percentage (62%) and rebound (305) records, got attention outside of the midwest and got Tracey named a Kodak All-American, making her only the second Buckeye to ever receive that honor.
In 1987-1988 big things were expected from the senior forward and while Tracey led OSU in rebounds, blocks, and steals, she was replaced at the top of the scoring chart by junior forward Nikita Lowry. So what happened? Did Hall have a down year? Did she lose her touch? It was nothing like that, Hall’s previous three seasons had made her the top priority for opposing defenses and the extra attention that she drew opened up other opportunities in the interior for Lowry. Ever the team player, Hall willingly let Lowry exploit those opportunities. Ohio State would ride the interior combination of Hall and Lowry to a second place finish in the Big Ten, ending up behind an Iowa team that only lost two games all season (one of which was to OSU), and a trip to the Sweet 16. Hall would be rewarded for her performance by being named a Kodak All-American for the second straight year, making her the first Buckeye to receive that honor.
During her career, Tracey Hall led Ohio State to 102-20 overall record, 67-5 in the Big Ten. At the time of her graduation, Hall was the top scorer in OSU history with 1,912 points. She also held the career record for field goals made (807) and rebounds (1,115) and was second in career field goal percentage (60%) and steals (122). Hall’s records would eventually be broken, with Katie Smith eventually setting the record for scoring and field goals made in 1996 and Jantel Lavender setting the record for rebounds in 2010, but today she still remains in the OSU’s career top 10 performers in points scored (5th place), field goals made (4th), field goal percentage (4th), rebounds (2nd), blocks (7th), and steals (5th). Hall also still shows up in the single season record book, ranking 19th in points in a season (512 in 1987-1988), 16th in field goals made (220 in 1986-1987), 5th, 7th, & 8th in field goal percentage (62% in 87-88, 61.7% in 85-86, 06% in 84-85), 7th, 10th, 11th, & 16th in rebounds, and 15th in steals (79 in 87-88). In terms of single game records Hall hold the 5th best mark in steal in a single game (9) and the second best in field goal percentage (92.3%)
Tracey’s playing experience wasn’t just limited to putting on the scarlet and gray as she also would don the red, white, and blue and represent the US as a member of the ABA/USA Select team in 1986 and the World University Games team in 1987. She would also be invited to the US Olympic Team tryouts in 1988 but unfortunately did not make the team.
Tracey Hall’s career at Ohio State was one that almost any basketball player anywhere would be jealous of. Hall rewrote the record books in several categories and her name still pops up throughout the OSU record book in the single season and career categories. In addition to her record setting individual performance, Hall helped to lead the Buckeyes to one of the best four year stretches in program history; during Hall’s career OSU won 3 Big Ten titles, losing only 5 conference games in the process and only 20 games overall. Hall helped to lead the Buckeyes to four NCAA tournaments, twice getting them to the Sweet 16 and twice getting them within one game of the Final Four. Despite all of this Hall’s name remains fairly unknown among Ohio State fans and her exploits have largely been forgotten. Fans are not the only ones guild of overlook Hall’s performance, the university that she played for also forgot her for a long time. Hall was inducted into the Ohio State Sports Hall of Fame in 1998, a decade after graduating, but it would be than a decade more before her jersey was retired. Finally, 21 years after she last played a game in the scarlet and gray, Tracey Hall’s jersey was retired by Ohio State in 2009. Now Hall’s number 44 jersey hangs in the rafters of Value City Arena where it can serve as a reminder of her amazing career and an inspiration to future Buckeyes.