There have been quite a few women's basketball players who've made history in the state of Iowa over the years.

Caitlin Clark obviously comes to mind, Megan Gustafson is arguably the second-greatest University of Iowa college basketball player of all time, and Monika Czinano ended her 5-year career shooting 67.1% from the field, which is an Iowa women's basketball record, according to Sports Keeda. The list of incredible female basketball players from Iowa could go on and on. There was also an Iowa woman who made history with the NBA.

Denise Long is from the small town of Whitten, Iowa, who made history almost exactly 55 years ago. On May 7th she was the first woman basketball player drafted into the NBA.

Denise Long Rife is one of the greatest high school scorers in the history of high school basketball. During her senior year at Union-Whitten High School, she averaged 69.6 points per game, according to Notes On Iowa.

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In this video, Denise mentions practicing at the park for upwards of 4 hours per day. She says "I don't know, I just kind of wanted to be the best basketball player that I could be." 

The park where Denise practiced is still in Whitten to this day and it has been named after her.

High School Career

Denise Long graduated from a class of 34 students at Union-Whitten and during her high school basketball career, she scored 100+ points 3 different times. She finished high school with 6,250 points and she played during an era where the three-point line didn't exist.

Imagine how many more points she could've scored if there was a 3-point line at the time. Denise played in the 1968 state championship and she scored 64 points in front of 3.5 million viewers who watched the game on TV.

Union-Whitten, led by Denise Long, went on to win the state championship in 1968.

NBA Draft History

In the 1960s, there weren't a ton of options for female basketball players to advance their careers. According to Notes on Iowa, "Title IX was still 3 years away and women's college basketball was still in its infancy."

History was made on May 7th, 1969, when the San Francisco Warriors drafted Denise Long in the 13th round of the draft. Today's basketball fans might not know that the NBA draft, at one point, was much longer than the only 2 rounds we see today.

The San Francisco Warriors drafted Denise to be a part of the Warrior Girls Basketball League. This was a 4 team league and the teams would play before the Warrior home games. Denise's contract gave her free tuition to the University of San Francisco, $5,000, and a Jaguar car.

Other teams would try to contain Denise by double and even triple-teaming her on defense. Despite the opponent's best efforts, no one could seem to keep Denise from scoring.

Even though Denise made NBA draft history, she already accomplished the only goal she ever had in basketball, which was to win a state title.

In the video above she says "It was okay playing out there but it wasn't like playing in high school. It wasn't the same as playing with these guys"

Iowa Born Sports Stars

What do each of these stellar athletes have in common? They all hail from the Hawkeye State.

Gallery Credit: Johnny Marks

Smallest Populations In Iowa

Smallest Populated Towns In Iowa

Gallery Credit: Gabe Glidden

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