Bellanti enshrined in UW-SP Hall of Fame
By Ross Pattermann
Carry Boehning Bellanti’s playing days are behind her, but her legacy as one of the state’s best players has long been known.
On Friday, Oct. 18, that legacy was formally recognized when she entered the UW - Stevens Point Athletic Hall of Fame. It’s a humbling experience for someone who began her athletic career in tiny Auburndale.
Bellanti, a teacher at Wausau West, has been a part of the Abbotsford Future Falcons Hoops Club basketball program for several years. She also coaches fifth and sixth grade girls basketball in Abbotford, teaching her players everything she learned during her storied athletic career.
That includes lessons beyond the basketball court, like what life is like outside a small town or school.
“Growing up in a small town you don’t really know what’s out there, unless you know of people doing those things,” Bellanti explained.
Bellanti got an idea about what’s out there for herself when she attended a UW - Stevens Point basketball game during her senior year of high school. She wasn’t there to cheer on the Pointers, but their opponents that night, the UW - Lacrosse Eagles. Indeed, it was La Crosse that Bellanti had initially set her eyes on.
“Watching that game, I just fell in love with Point,” Bellanti said. “After that game I talked to the assistant coach and he had me fill out the recruiting form online, and from there, that’s how the recruiting started.” In between the excitement of the recruiting process, Bellanti had to face hard truths, and the fact was that before Bellanti arrived on campus, the Pointers had not enjoyed a great deal of success.
“We were very weak,” Bellanti said candidly. “It showed from the fans in the stands. I would say there were less than 50 people in the crowd, and by the time we were in the playoffs my senior year, it was standing room only.”
Almost immediately, Bellanti made her presence known, making the 1999 WIAC All-Defensive team. Bellanti was proud of that achievement but admits it was tough to make that initial transition, considering that during her time in Auburndale, she was the one entrusted to score and make big plays.
“Coming from high school, and being the main scorer, coming in my freshman year of college, my role was to screen for our best scorer,” Bellanti explains. “I think learning and adjusting to new roles made me a better overall player, which helped me all four years in college.”
That ability to be well-rounded is seen in Bellanti’s stats. It’s been nearly twenty years since she last wore the purple and gold of a Pointer, but Bellanti still ranks fifth all time in rebounds with 739, and eighth in scoring, with 1,274 points.
Bellanti also finished as a three time All WIAC selection (2000-02). In spite of that success, Bellanti says there were a lot of unknowns heading into UW-Stevens Point.
By Bellanti’s junior year the wins began to pile up. The hype grew even larger heading into Bellanti’s senior season.
It was that year that Bellanti and her teammates made history, notching not just the most wins in program history in a single season (30-3), but taking home the NCAA D-3 title in Terre Haute, Ind. But the Pointers needed a bit of luck just to get into the tournament.
“My senior year we were playing Platteville, we had beat them twice in the season, and we lost. That win would have given us an automatic bid into the tournament. So, Selection Sunday comes around and we’re all sitting and praying that we’re getting that at large bid.”
The Pointers did receive an at large bid, and they quickly took advantage of their opportunity.
“We were excited just to have new life. So, we were going to make the most of our new life and we weren’t going to let anybody stand in our way.”
The Pointers defeated Marymount University 80-57 in the national semifinal, punching a ticket to the NCAA D-3 championship game with St. Lawrence University. There were plenty of nerves heading into that game, but as soon as the game started, the team loosened up, found a rhythm, and found themselves topping St. Lawrence in nail-biting fashion, 67-65.
“Winning was just icing on the cake,” Bellanti said. “It just made my senior year that much more special. It was the chemistry that we had on our team . . . we were truly family and I truly believe if we didn’t have our team chemistry we wouldn’t have made it as far as we did.”
At the tournament’s end Bellanti was named to the 2002 NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team, as well as the 2002 NCAA Final Four Most Valuable Player. Six years later the entire team was inducted into UW - Stevens Point athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.
11 years later, Bellanti returned to her alma mater, this time to be honored as an individual.
“The feeling to be recognized and having that honor is amazing,” Bellanti said “As an individual, honestly, I didn’t think that was ever going to happen. Being honored as an individual is pretty special.”
The only difference between the two honors, Bellanti says, was the nerves. After being honored as a team, suddenly all the lights were on her. It helped to see so many of her friends and family in the crowd - including players that she currently coaches.
“It was great seeing all the people there to support me, including a lot of my fifth and sixth grade girls that I coach there. It was amazing for them to see and hear what’s out there.”
It’s that knowledge, of a bigger world than Abbotsford, or Colby or Auburndale that Bellanti tries to instill in her young players.
“I want to be a role model for these kids, and all the kids in the youth programs that I help organize,” Bellanti said. “I want them to be successful and I think a lot of life lessons can be taught through sports. I don’t just want to teach them about basketball . . . definitely make the most of any opportunity given to you.
“It’s something I keep telling them you have to think further than what you are seeing,” Bellanti said. “It’s really hard to, but you have to think outside the box. If there’s something you want in life, no dream is ever too impossible.”