When the little girl came home from school everyday she had plenty to do. Being the 16th of 20 children, there were a lot of chores in her rural Mississippi home. But when the chores were done she and her brothers and sisters would go out to play some type of sport … usually basketball.
Growing up in a big family taught Ruthie plenty of lessons. Like sharing, hard work, determination, and the ability to beat her brothers in sports.
Her father the Reverend Linwood Bolton taught his children that anything was possible with a positive mental attitude and hard work. It was a lesson that Ruthie Bolton learned well.
According to Ruthie, hard work is the key to fulfilling your dreams. “If you really want something, you can make it happen. Growing up in a family with 19 other children wasn’t easy. Everyone was competitive, and I learned early from my parents that focus and determination was the key.”
Ruthie loved competition and she loved playing basketball but when she tried to play organized ball she was often told she was not big enough or not good enough. She has had to face many naysayer’s over the years. People that told her she just “couldn’t do it.”
When Bolton wanted to play with her sister at Auburn, the coach told her she did not have what it would take to make the team. She worked hard to prove him wrong and went on to make All-SEC leading the Tigers to three SEC Championships and four NCAA tournaments, including two runner up spots in the final four. She was named to the All-Final Four, All-SEC, and All-Academic SEC teams. She still leads in several statistical categories at Auburn and in 2001 her number was retired by the University.
When Ruthie graduated from college she wanted to fulfill her childhood dreams to play in the Olympics. However, at 5’8″ Ruthie was not considered tall enough and was not invited to try out. So she just went back to what she knew best … hard work.
Her determination proved the naysayer’s wrong again and Ruthie was named the 1991 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year. She made the Olympics in 1996 and played for current Auburn Coach Nel Fortner; leading Team USA to a Gold Medal. Two years later she was told she would never play basketball again after sustaining an ACL injury. Once again hard work and determination saw her make it back to the 2000 Olympics, were she earned her second Gold Medal.
Ruthie went on to play professionally in Europe for six years until the WNBA started up in 1997. She became the franchise player for Sacramento, and the team’s first marquee player. In eight years she was a three-time All-Star and was twice selected first team All-WNBA. In 2005 she became the only Monarch player to have her jersey retired.
Finally on June 11, 2011 the little girl from Mclain, Mississippi became the first Auburn player to ever be inducted in to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
”I never would have guessed I could have come this far. Now I know that anything is possible with a positive mental attitude and hard work.”
And that old coach from Auburn; the one that had told her she would not make it as a basketball player? He was on hand to see her final triumph. Yes, Auburn’s All-Time Winn ingest Basketball Coach Joe Ciampi - was very proud.