Alumna transforms sports passion into career
While playing basketball throughout her life, Barbara Farris (’94) never celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, or Mardi Gras breaks, but the passion for the sport that she learned to embrace superseded any time away from the court.
On Aug. 5, Farris was one of just four people to be inducted into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Of those four inductees, Farris was the only female.
“I was tremendously humbled and appreciative of the honor, being that I saw the class of people who were inducted with me,” Farris said. “I’ve always loved sports. I’ve always appreciated the tremendous blessings and opportunities they’ve provided me in my life. I never took any opportunities, any awards, any person I’ve met throughout my career for granted. I’ve just always been appreciative.”
Women’s Basketball Head Coach Lisa Stockton coached Farris during her career at Tulane University and believed Farris helped catapult the Tulane basketball program to new heights.
“Her first year was my first year at Tulane, so in a way we were both freshman together,” Stockton said. “She was Rookie of the Year in the conference, and then she became a national player. It took our program to a different level. When you look back, Tulane had never been to a NCAA tournament before, and we went to an NCAA tournament every year that she was there.”
Athletic Director Sue Bower worked at Tulane as the Women’s Golf Head Coach during Farris’s playing time. She concurs with Stockton’s high praise of Farris as the star of the women’s basketball team.
“Farris really put Tulane basketball on the map, single handedly,” Bower said. “She was that instrumental to take Tulane athletics to another level.”
More and more Tulane students and faculty started attending basketball games when they heard that the team had a new star, according to Bower.
“Boys and girls, young and old, even faculty members even started to come,” Bower said. “We had huge crowds. That was probably the time when we were really really successful, making post-season NCAA championships as a norm. Barbara was the center of everything.”
Women’s basketball was most successful at Tulane when Farris was on the team, according to Stockton. With Farris at its core, the team attended NCAA tournaments for four years in a row and won its first championship in 1997. The team was nationally ranked for the first time in Tulane’s history.
“I look back, and our success that we’ve had over the years, we can really trace back to those years that Barbara was there,” Stockton said. “We built something, and were able to attract better players. Barbara was a really big part of building our program.”
After her years at Tulane, Farris continued her basketball career, playing professionally for the American Basketball League and the Women’s National Basketball Association. For the ABL, she played in many different countries such as France, Spain, and Korea. In the WNBA, she played for Detroit Shock and the New York Liberty.
Playing basketball professionally wasn't always as easy or as fun as it seemed, yet the experience was worth it in the long run.
“It was a challenge that I welcomed,” Farris said. “My family helped me see that this is a tremendous opportunity that doesn’t seem like fun at the time, but when you look back, you’ll be like, ‘Wow, someone’s paying me to live in a foreign country, to travel the world, to play a little basketball on the side and learn more about myself.’ I definitely think that putting myself in uncomfortable situations has helped me learn more about myself and my own limits and the strengths that I actually have without even realizing it at the time.”
Throughout her career on and off the court, her family has stood beside Farris and supported her every layup, dunk, and carry of the way.
“I’ve been very fortunate that I have tremendous family support,” Farris said. “They have traveled with me to games, even when I lived abroad. In other countries, my family would come to visit—siblings, parents, cousins, friends—so it’s always been a team effort.”
To Farris, sports are all about teamwork. Like her family supported her during her basketball career, all members of a team must support each other to allow the team to improve and reach its goals.
“You really got to dedicate your blood, sweat and tears and give up yourself to your teammates, to your coaches, and to the sport in order to better your chances to do well,” Farris said.