Like any debut in sports these days, the first American Basketball League game, between the New England Blizzard and the Richmond Rage on Oct. 18 at the Hartford Civic Center, was attended by scores of journalists, commemorated by stacks of merchandise and punctuated by smoke, laser lights and overamplified sound effects. But none of this '90s glitz sold the crowd of 8,767 on women's basketball as much as the old-fashioned grit of players such as New England point guard Jennifer Rizzotti.
Less than two minutes into the game, Rizzotti, a former Connecticut All-America known for going all-out for loose balls, took an elbow above her right eye in a scramble for a rebound. As blood gushed from the gash, Rizzotti headed for the locker room in search of a Band-Aid. After reemerging in the second quarter with seven stitches and a lumpy white bandage, she sparked a 24-2 Blizzard run that led to a 100-73 victory.
"If you know me," said Rizzotti, who had eight points and five assists, "there wasn't any doubt that I was coming back." On opening night she showed the rest of the players in the fledgling league the keys to long-running success: Keep hustling, and be prepared to take a few knocks.