When most people think about some of the greatest legends in the history of the University of Florida’s athletic programs, rarely do they consider any athlete that has played for the women’s basketball program. However, current WNBA Atlanta Dream forward Delisha Milton-Jones should definitely give most people reason to pause because her accolades at both the collegiate level and the professional level scream of greatness.
During her four year career as a Gator, Milton-Jones led UF’s women’s basketball team to four consecutive NCAA tournament berths while amassing a number of awards and eclipsing a number records.
She was the first Gator athlete, male or female, to earn first team All-America honors for basketball and was a three time All-SEC honoree. By the time she graduated, she had scored over 1,000 points, had over 1,000 rebounds, and was named SEC Player of the Year after her senior season.
“I’ve never been the type of person to set goals. All of the records that I have in Florida…that was just from me playing, and playing hard,” said Milton-Jones. “I never said I wanna go out and I wanna score 20 points every night or anything like that, I just went and I just played. And I felt like if it got me to the point where I was in college, where I received all these wonderful accolades, I figured I could do the same even in my professional life.”
Milton-Jones was proven right because after playing for a short time in the American Basketball League (ABL) and being drafted into the WNBA by the Los Angeles Sparks in 1999, she went on to win two WNBA championships and two Olympic gold medals. Despite these amazing accomplishments, Milton-Jones says her fondest memories as a player do not come from her attainment of accolades.
“Every setting that I’ve been in, whether it was high school, collegiate, or even professionally, internationally or here in the States, it would all come from the locker room. Yes, I’ve won championships and they’re special in their own right, the same for the Olympic medals. But the camaraderie that you share on those long bus rides and the locker room, those are the moments that stand out the most because they really touch your heart in a special way.”
Milton-Jones after winning the gold medal with the U.S. women’s basketball team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
As she approaches her 17th season in the league, Milton-Jones is currently the oldest active player in the WNBA at 40 years old. But despite her age, Milton-Jones says she will continue to play as long as she is able to help her team.
“I really enjoy playing and I’m still training and participating in the sport at a high level. And as long as I’m gonna be an asset to a team, I will play. If I’m gonna become a liability, no, I’ll shut it down.”
Athough Milton-Jones suffered a season-ending achilles injury last season, she’s completely committed to getting back on the court in time for the beginning of the upcoming season in order to help her team win.
“I’m pushing myself to the limit because I want to come back not looking like a 40 year old out there on the court with 20 something year olds. I wanna look like I left, like no one could tell the difference…that that lady out there was 38, 39 years old. So I’m pushing myself and refining my lifestyle, my eating habits, my training habits, everything. So I’m looking forward to coming back and having a breakout season.”
The upcoming season of the WNBA begins this May, but in the meantime, you can catch Delisha Milton-Jones working as a sideline reporter for the Atlanta Hawks as she continues to rehab in the offseason.