It was a season of firsts.
The 2000-01 season was the first year the Penn women’s basketball team went undefeated in the Ivy League. It was the first time the women got to hang a banner from the Palestra’s rafters. It was the first chance the program went dancing in March Madness.
Now, the woman who made that miraculous season possible will have her spot solidified amongst Penn’s athletic greats.
On May 5, Diana Caramanico will be one of 12 members of the eighth class to be inducted into the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame.
The committee wasted no time. After waiting the obligatory 10 years following graduation, Caramanico, a 2001 Wharton graduate, will finally be inducted and is one of the youngest members of the class. She will be joined by only one other player from the Class of 2001, former sprint football star and wrestler Timothy Ortman.
“I’m really honored and I feel very fortunate,” Caramanico said. “I’ve gotten a number of awards in my playing career, but I never expected any of them. It was a surprise.”
Caramanico was also admitted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 2007.
“We look at what you accomplished while you were an undergrad,” said Gail Zachary, assistant director of the Penn Relays and part of the six-member committee that decides on inductees. “Obviously some people go on and do a lot more in their sport, but we base our selection on what the person did while they were at Penn.”
Though Caramanico played abroad in Strasbourg, France for two years after her undergraduate career, the success she had as a Quaker was unprecedented: she is the program’s all-time leader in scoring, rebounds and steals.
Caramanico certainly made an impact on Penn’s history. Not only was she part of the championship team, but she was also the fastest athlete in school history — male or female — to record her 1,000th career point. She was also the first women’s basketball player to receive both Ivy League Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors.
Her successful senior campaign leading the Quakers to an undefeated Ivy season was full of dramatic victories.
One particular close call came on March 3, 2001, at home against Yale. Coach Kelly Greenberg was ejected with just over eight minutes left and the team down by three points. But the women went on to win as their coach “paced the corridors of the Palestra,” Caramanico said.
The credit for the Quakers’ successful campaign her senior year, Caramanico believes, belongs to her teammates who received the least amount of playing time.
“There was a group of players on our team that year that called themselves ‘The Chargers,’ and it was the five players that really didn’t get a lot of time, or any time,” she said.
“They would play us, the first team, in practice and had so much fun and were so fiery and competitive. And their mission was to take charges on us because that was worth the most points in our scrimmage … They had the starting five wishing they were part of that group.”
Though she may no longer be playing basketball, the sport is still a big part of her life. After earning her master’s degree from Penn in Applied Positive Psychology in August, Caramanico works with athletes on the mental aspects of the game.
“There’s so much physical training going on, but rarely does anyone work with the mental side,” she said. “I’ve been the player that had a lot of pressure on them to perform day in and day out. I’ve been the player that got cut from the ‘A’ team and [was] playing club basketball when they were in middle school. So I’ve been on all sides of the sport.”
Though she may have been cut from the ‘A’ squad as a youth, Caramanico proved over her career that she deserves to be placed into a club that includes only Penn’s greatest athletes.