Roberts to be honored with own banner

Linda Roberts is the team’s all-time leading rebounder, but that’s far from her only credential.

Matt Perkins

On Jan. 2, Lindsay Whalen became just the third Minnesota women’s basketball player to have her number retired.

Now the Gophers are preparing to honor another name by raising it high up into the rafters.

Linda Roberts, the Gophers’ career rebounding record holder with 1,413, will be honored on Jan. 15 during halftime of the team’s game against Michigan State at Williams Arena.

Roberts has done much for the University on the court, but it’s also her off-court loyalty that has made her honor-worthy in the school’s eyes. She has worked on campus since 1983.

Her career, which spanned from 1978-81, saw her win three most valuable player awards for the Gophers, become a two-time finalist for the Wade Trophy and, at the time, end her career as the top scorer in school history.

She also goes down in the books as one of the most dominant female athletes in Minnesota history.

“She had something nobody else had, and that’s a mean streak,” said Kwame McDonald, a reporter with

the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder who covered Roberts’ career beginning with high school ball at St. Paul Central High School. “She didn’t let anyone push her around. In fact, she pushed people around. She had people fearful of her because of her physical size and looks – her demeanor.”

Roberts, who was on vacation and could not be reached for comment, was first honored with an induction into the Minnesota Women’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1995. The No. 21 jersey has not been worn out of respect for what Roberts has done for the program.

In Roberts’ last year with the Gophers, she led the team to a program-best 28 wins and helped carry it to a quarterfinal appearance at the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women National Tournament, before the NCAA Tournament existed.

But Roberts’ school pride extended well beyond her playing career, and she currently works in the athletics department’s marketing unit.

“I think a lot of the kids play for the name on the front of their chest, for Minnesota,” Gophers coach Pam Borton said. “Linda still lives that today.”

Luckily, they play for the name on the chest and not the number on the back. Gophers recruit Ashley Ellis-Milan has worn No. 21 her whole life and said she hopes to wear it when she joins the team this season.

Borton said Roberts’ career as a player is only half of what makes up her legacy with the program, and her dedication to Minnesota defines her off-court legend.

“She loves the University,” Borton said. “She’s been here ever since she played here, and that’s something you hope your current and future players exemplify as well. I just think she is the perfect example.”