SPRINGFIELD — Lincoln graduate and Missouri Southern women’s basketball standout Anita Oplotnik was inducted Wednesday into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame at the Basketball Tip-off Luncheon presented at the Oasis Hotel & Convention Center in Springfield.
Oplotnik was the first Lady Cardinals basketball player to reach 1,000 career points and helped Lincoln reach the Class 1 championship in 1984. During Oplotnik’s three varsity seasons, the Lady Cards compiled a record of 75-10.
Former Lady Cardinals head coach Marlin Hammond said Oplotnik was a selfless leader and an outstanding teammate.
“Anita was a girl who did not care who received the attention or honors,” Hammond said. “She and the group of girls in her class, they were so focused on doing well as a team rather than any individual accomplishments and achievements.
“She made people around her a better player.”
Averaging 16.7 points per game before the 3-point line was implemented, Oplotnik used her 6-foot frame and a smooth release — which was automatic at the free-throw line — to grow into a prolific scoring threat.
“Very coordinated, very good hands,” Hammond said. “She could palm a boys basketball, which at the time, is what we played with. She was very talented and naturally gifted, but she was very hard working with high goals and ambitions. She was focused.”
The Lady Cardinals enjoyed an undefeated, district championship campaign in Oplotnik’s junior year before an upset derailed state-level goals. Hammond said that loss inspired a group of five seniors and sophomores apiece to improve on a near-perfect season.
“In a way, the loss in the first-round game of her junior year was a moment that defined what she was going to do her senior year,” Hammond said. “Because that was one of the easiest groups to coach you could deal with. Those 10 girls were so focused on the fact that that was not going to happen again. … That group of girls worked to get to that moment.”
Oplotnik continued getting buckets, collegiately, at Missouri Southern in Joplin, setting the program scoring record with 1,842 points and earning two NAIA All-District and All-American bids. She was a three-time all-conference winner and conference player of the year in 1987.
Hammond said Oplotnik is a sterling example of success starting at a small-school environment.
“You can be successful at a small school level,” Hammond said. “We competed very well against large schools. … You can not only be successful athletically, academically, as a parent as a worker, but you can accomplish whatever you wish if you set your goals high.”