It Was All About the Fans for Price
Aug 31, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It's time for Franthea Price to sit on the edge of her seat and yell "Wow."
For four seasons -- from 1986-90 -- Price electrified University of Iowa women's basketball fans, who undoubtedly uttered a wow or two while watching her work magic on the court. She was part of 105 Hawkeye victories and a member of a team that won more than 92 percent of the time in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
On Aug. 30, Price will be one of three student-athletes from the modern era, and one of six overall, to be inducted into the National Iowa Varsity Club Athletics Hall of Fame.
"When I got the call I was in shock," Price said. "All I could say was wow. I still haven't wrapped my mind around this prestigious award, but I'm really honored."
No women's basketball player in UI history has more than the 321 steals swiped by Price. She is fifth on the all-time career points list with 1,742, seventh in assists (387) and 11th in rebounds (726).
"Fran Price is one of the most gifted athletes I had ever seen," former UI head women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "She was a purist who loved the game, studied the game, and played the game. She looked beyond anything that was superficial."
During Price's career, the Hawkeyes compiled a record of 105-18 (85.4 winning percentage) and a mark of 65-7 (90.3) in the Big Ten Conference. There isn't a particular victory or shot that sticks out as a highpoint for Price, rather the relationship she had with fans.
"When I was playing at Iowa, there was an older lady who was a die-hard Hawkeye fan," Price said. "She used to call me her little cucumber. I never understood why she called me that. One day I decided to ask her why. She said, "You were playing Northwestern at Northwestern and you went up to the free throw line nine times straight and you hit nine straight free throws. You walked up there cool as a cucumber."
That occurred March 10, 1988, in Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill. Iowa held a 65-60 lead with 1:28 remaining when Price began her streak of made free throws. After sinking nine in a row she finally misfired on the second attempt of a one-and-one, but by that time the Hawkeyes had secured a 76-66 victory.
"That was a highlight because this woman was close to 90 years old," Price said. "To me, it was all about the fans. I got so emotionally-tied to them because they committed themselves to us as a team and they became part of us."
As an eighth-grader, Price caught the attention of Stringer, then head coach at Cheyney University, who heard rumors of an abundance of talent in the Detroit area. Price was from River Rouge, Mich., and when her team won the Detroit Police Athletic League championship and qualified for a tournament in Atlanta, Stringer watched from afar while recruiting another prospect.
Stinger was hired by the University of Iowa in 1983, and Price signed to become a Hawkeye three years later.
"We were like the brown paper bag: What you see is what you get," Stringer said, referring to Price and the entire Hawkeye team. "We weren't the fluff, we weren't going to try to have all the glitter, we were committed to being a team and working hard."
The union with Stringer, combined with support from caring UI fans, was what Price needed at a vulnerable time of her life. When Price was 17, her mother died from complications of alcoholism.
"No one can ever replace my mom, but coach Stringer took me in and stepped in when I needed her," Price said. "Coach Stringer was the reason I chose Iowa. And then when I met the players, they were exactly what I needed at the time. They took me in and nurtured me back to spiritual health. If I had to make the choice all over again it wouldn't be any different."
"I have another daughter out there looking out for me, and I will always be there to look out for her," Stringer said.
Price was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 1987. She was a three-time All-Big Ten selection, making the second team in 1989, and the first team in 1988 and 1990. As a senior, Price was named Big Ten Player of the Year and Kodak First-Team All-America.
"It was a privilege and an honor to have been awarded a scholarship to play at a scholastic university such as Iowa," Price said.
Iowa rarely lost inside its home building with Price in uniform. One reason was support provided by the many fans that endeared themselves to the Hawkeye players. Another was a simple message Stringer emphasized to the team.
"Coach Stringer stressed that you don't let someone come in your house and go in your refrigerator and take your food without permission. Or letting them come in there at all to get anything," Price said. "That was the theme for us. We always said our house had to be protected at all costs. That was why we were so unbeatable: This was our home, and if we can't win anywhere else, we have to win at home."
The Hawkeyes won at home and they won on the road, making four trips to the NCAA Tournament from 1987-90, winning five times.
"She didn't do anything for the glory and recognition she would get. That wasn't Fran," Stringer said. "All she wanted to do was be sure she played her best and that we won, and she would do whatever that took. The great ones don't get stuck on themselves."
Price played professionally in Spain, Italy and France, as well as the 1998 season with Sacramento of the WNBA. She earned a degree in physical education with an emphasis in sports management from the UI in the summer of 1991.
When her basketball career ended, Price was called to ministry and received a bachelor's degree in theology from the International Apostolic University of Grace and Truth. Now residing in Grand Rapids, Mich., Price is a supervisor at Kane County Juvenile Detention Center.
"My ultimate goal is to go back to school to be a doctor in psychiatry," Price said. "Something to do with counseling."
Price has a 25-year-old foster daughter named Michelle Cabezas-DeLaPaz.