Sports

An Interview With Sherry Levin ‘84

By Mike O’Brien ‘23, Chief Sports Editor

     On Friday, Nov. 19, women’s basketball alumnus Sherry Levin ‘84 will be honored at the Hart Center with a ceremony coinciding with the Crusaders’ clash against UMass. Levin will be honored as she will bear the name of the Sherry Levin Players’ Lounge in the women’s basketball locker room complex.

Levin is arguably the greatest women’s basketball player to ever lace them up for Holy Cross, as she ranks first in the program’s history in career points (2,253), scoring average (21.8 points per game), free throws made (569), double figure scoring games (101), and field goals made (842) over the span of her collegiate career from 1980-1984.

Speaking on these records and what it means to have the honor of a dedication in her name at the Hart Center, Levin said “It’s really quite rewarding on many different levels. I think I’ve learned about perspective; milestones like that somewhat fade, but the experiences and moments that I’ve shared with my teammates and with my coach Togo Palazzi have remained. 

“I’m also a coach, and something that I’ll tell my players is that individual achievements are really a reflection of the group experience. I look at this as I’m being honored and it’s so exciting and it’s certainly something that I will relish and soak in the moment; but it’s really something that is an achievement of all the women that I’ve played with and that have come after me.”

Levin currently serves as the head coach of the girls’ varsity basketball team at Worcester Academy, which is less than three miles away from Holy Cross. During her time at Worcester Academy, Levin has guided the team to two New England Championships, a testament to her ability to pass on her basketball knowledge to the younger generation.

With her connections between Holy Cross and Worcester Academy, Levin’s enshrinement in the Hart Center is not just for the Crusader community, but for all of Worcester to be proud of as well. Reflecting ahead of her ceremony and how the city will see it, Levin said “It’s a little bit overwhelming. To have something like this is really something I’d never thought about, that my name will be on that space as long as the building is there. And I’m sure people from Worcester will be going in and every now and then someone will say ‘Oh, I wonder who Sherry Levin was.’”

But Levin’s impact on the game of basketball extends beyond the city limits of Worcester. Levin has been involved with Team USA at the Maccabi Games, which is an international sporting competition to those belonging to the Jewish faith, both as a player and a coach, guiding the teams to gold medals in 2013 and 2017. 

“Athletics on a very high, international level is really an equalizer. You could be from anywhere, you could have any religion, you could be from any socioeconomic background, and yet when you’re on a team, you will not have success unless you come together for a common goal or purpose,” said Levin on her experience with basketball on the global level. 

Levin is a trailblazer in more ways than one. Not only was she the first and still only Jewish member of the Holy Cross Varsity Club Hall of Fame, but was also the first female athlete to ever receive a full scholarship for athletics. As an incorporation of Levin’s strong faith into the ceremony, the College will also welcome the Levin’s family rabbi, who will be blessing a Mezuzah which will be installed on the doorway leading into the locker room.

Speaking of Holy Cross as a place of welcoming all backgrounds both during and after her time as a player, Levin said “When they told me this was happening, the College said that in the normal course of events, a priest would then bless the space. I said I would love to have Father Markey be that person, who’s a wonderful man and someone who’s dear to my heart. The College said they could certainly have Father Markey do that, and then asked if I would like to have a rabbi.

“I was taken back not that in the sense that it surprised me, but for me personally as someone who’s strong in my Jewish faith which has never deterred me, during my time here I was part of a predominantly Catholic Holy Cross community. I went to Masses and celebrated holidays with my friends, and that was wonderful and they welcomed me. So I was taken back just that they would think of that. 

And then they further told me that they would like to put a mezuzah on the door. And then I got a little bit emotional because that’s taking it to the next point of truly representing what Holy Cross and the Jesuits believe about inclusivity. In today’s world, you don’t always have that, or it becomes more forced. This is as natural as it can be, and for me to be able to be personally strong in what I believe and yet accepted into a wonderful community means the world.”

Photo Courtesy of Marcia Zimmerman

Levin’s ties between basketball and faith is a microcosm of the College’s special nature of being a place where people of any faiths or backgrounds can succeed; even on the level of being a program’s all time leading scorer. In this sense, Levin’s connection to the women’s basketball program is not just something that lives in the past. It’s an example of how the College’s athletic teams can excel in both winning on the court and making all people feel like they’re welcome off it today.

If Levin could impart some wisdom onto the current women’s basketball team, she said she would tell them “You never know when some moments in life are going to be the most memorable moments of your life. That’s kind of the fun part of the game as well; you could go into a game and you could have one play that could turn the moment of a game. So if you live with that attitude of being ready for any moment being potentially life changing, you’re going to be okay.”

As mentioned before, Levin told me that she’s using the ceremony as a moment of opportunity to reflect on her time at Holy Cross and playing basketball here. When I asked her if she could pick just one moment that she cherishes the most, Levin said “There are so many that represent different aspects of what the years meant. In the global aspect of it, I think about the time I spent with teammates. Whether it was practicing, bus trips, time in the locker room, each one has its own indelible point in my memories. 

In terms of reflection, it all kind of ties together. And this is really me thinking about this for the first time, I think about how basketball was my world. So I can’t possibly pick out one moment. I can still think of my dad and I can picture him with his hand on his chin watching the game intently, and I’d look over at him and he’d give me a little nod that would say ‘You got it.’ And those are the kind of feelings in my soul. Every time I walk into my gym there’s something that I can feel and I think it will be enhanced and my teammates are there, and when I look at my name on that wall it’ll probably be a little overwhelming. I tend to be a crier, so hopefully I’ll be okay,” she concluded with a laugh. 

Levin’s story isn’t just a story in athletics or Holy Cross for that matter. Her connection between the game of basketball and her personal relationships with her family, her faith, and her teammates serve to inspire anybody who learns about her. Levin’s dedication ceremony will take place at the Hart Center on Nov. 19 at 6:00 P.M.

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