St. Albans ahtlete makes it to NYC Hall of fame

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Gail Marquis will be inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame this month. Photo Courtesy of Queens College

By Ivan Pereira
Thursday, September 10, 2009

When Gail Marquis first started playing basketball in the gym of St. Catherine’s of Sienna in St. Albans, she displayed an athletic passion that led her to compete in the Olympics, take the court in Europe and help win the last major basketball title for a New York team.

In two weeks, her career will be immortalized for all of her fans and sports historians when she is inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame. Marquis, who is a vice president of the wealth management firm Element Financial Group, where she heads the sports and fashion division, said she was flattered by the honor because she worked hard to be the best in her sport.

“I’m so glad that my body of work in basketball has stood the test of time,” she said.

While attending Andrew Jackson High School in the early 1970s, Marquis, a St. Albans native, began playing basketball at St. Catherine’s CYO program after her cousins invited her to take part after school. In her junior year, Andrew Jackson created a girls’ basketball team and she immediately signed up and enjoyed taking on other high schools in the borough.

After graduating in 1972, Marquis went to Queens College and joined its women’s basketball team. Initially the transition was not easy, according to the athlete, who played power forward, because the competition at the college level demanded more energy.

“It was five days a week, games during the day, games on the weekend. They had a scoreboard, they had whistles. Coming from high schools you didn’t have that intensity,” she said.

Although the team went to the national championship that year, Marquis said she felt she needed improvement and on the advice of her coach, Lucille Kyvallos, she attended a special basketball camp in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. She said she learned a lot from other college coaches and instructors there.

“They added the skill sets I needed to get my own shots and also use my teammates to open myself for a shot,” she said.

The lessons paid off and next season Marquis said she was shooting, passing and defending better during her games. Her most memorable moment came during a 1974 game against Immaculate College, which at the time was the national champion.

With seconds left on the clock, Marquis hit the winning shot, won the game and boosted her confidence as an athlete.

“For that one moment, on that one line I scored the basket. It was a major turning point for me,” she recalled. “It got me to whet my appetite.”

When the Olympics announced it would introduce women’s basketball to its lineup during the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Marquis jumped at the opportunity and tried out for the team. After an exhausting process, she beat out hundreds of women and earned her place on the 12-player roster.

Marquis said her experience at the Olympiad, where the team won the silver medal, was the proudest moment in her career because she never thought she would make it to that level after so few years of playing the sport.

“The coaches kept us in spirit and kept us focused,” she said. “We hopped up on the medal stand, all 12 of us, and at that point all the hard work paid off.”

After the Olympics ended, Marquis played for three years for a professional team in France before she got the deal of a lifetime. The Women’s Basketball League, the short-lived professional basketball association in the United States, was entering its second season in 1979 and its New York team, the New York Stars, asked Marquis to join them.

“You’re playing pro ball in Madison Square Garden — what else can you ask for?” she said.

Using the skills she honed from games all over the world, Marquis helped the Stars win the league’s championship that season. The victory marked the last time a New York team won a major basketball tournament.

Marquis, who earned a bachelor’s in physical education from Queens College in 1980, played for the New Jersey Gems for one year before the league folded.

Although she said she had fun on the court, the athlete decided to turn her interests into a new direction and entered the world of finance. Over the years, she has worked for several companies, including Dean Witter Reyonlds, JP Morgan Chase and Merrill Lynch.

Marquis said she enjoys working in the business world because she still has to be quick on her feet to succeed.

“Wall Street was competitive,” she said. “I was entry-level. I found it cutthroat and you had to be on your game.”

Marquis said she hopes her induction into the Hall of fame Sept. 26 will inspire future female athletes to follow their dreams. Even though professional women’s basketball was still in its infancy in the United States during her time in the league, she said she still pressed on because the sport was her passion.

“I would like them to know I was doing it when it wasn’t fashionable,” she said of her career.

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 13th, 2009 at 2:34 pm and is filed under Feature, Print Articles, Profiles, Sports, TimesLedger. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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