Woman’s passion for basketball inspires young players

CHARLOTTE — An athletic director, who has played and coached basketball, said she is grateful to help and inspire young players to be their best.

Johnson & Wales University Athletic Director Trudi Lacey spends much of the time in her office at the Uptown campus but when she can, she retreats from the stress to the basketball court, a place she grew to love at a young age.

“I come in early sometimes,” Lacey said. “I might take a little lunch break, get away from my desk. Nobody is in here -- put up a few shots.”

Lacey has been around the court since she was nine years old.

“It was something that I loved,” she said. “I was passionate about it. I thought I could be good at it. I spent a lot of time on the playground with the guys.”

Lacey played ball with the guys because there weren’t many girls doing that in her small Virginia town.

“And if you went back to my hometown, they’d tell you I beat a lot of the guys,” she said.

Lacey went on to play college basketball at N.C. State under legendary head coach Kay Yow.

Lacey finished as one of the most decorated players in the school’s history.

She was an All-American named to the ACC Legend team in 2007.

The Wolfpack star also made history as the first Black woman to earn a four-year basketball scholarship.

After her playing career ended, a conversation with her aunt changed her life.

Lacey told her aunt that she was going to go into banking after college.

“‘What do you love?’ I said, ‘I love basketball.’ She said, ‘Do that,’” Lacey explained, recalling the conversation with her aunt.

Lacey said she had a hard time seeing herself as a coach.

“I didn’t see many Black head coaches at the college level,” she said.

Lacey inevitably became a coach for over 30 years, including with the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting.

She then began work in an administration setting as the athletics director at Johnson & Wales.

“It was always my vision to do other things and have a larger impact in the sports world, and I think that’s what I’ve been able to do, especially now as an administrator. I have the opportunity to touch so many lives,” Lacey said.

Lacey’s passion inspires others, including Black female players.

“It’s one of those things where you’re like, yes, and it’s motivating and it’s really what keeps me going to know that I can have a positive impact,” Lacey said. “(To) make an impact in people’s lives and hopefully to some degree, be an inspiration to them.”

VIDEO: Muggsy Bogues’ foundation hosts its first basketball tournament in Union County