When Rachel Banham joined the Gophers in 2011, her usual jersey number wasn’t available. Though she loved wearing No. 15 during her prep career at Lakeville North — chosen in honor of her birthday — she decided her new one should reflect her ambition.
“I was like, number 1 would be kind of cool,’’ Banham said. “I want to be the best, so it’s kind of weird that that actually happened.’’
Sunday, the guard who became the Gophers’ No. 1 scorer saw that number hung in the rafters of Williams Arena. Banham, who ended her college career with 3,093 points, was honored with a jersey-retirement ceremony before the Gophers’ 83-72 loss to No. 4 Maryland.
The fourth pick in the 2016 WNBA draft by the Connecticut Sun, Banham showed she can still draw a crowd in her hometown. Hundreds of people showed up for a pregame autograph session, forming a line that stretched down the concourse nearly the length of the court. Attendance for the game was announced at 4,884, the largest this season by more than 1,500.
Banham is living in the Twin Cities and just completed her rehabilitation from a knee injury that cut short her first WNBA season. Along with her family and friends, she watched from the Williams Arena floor as a banner with her picture was unveiled next to that of her idol, Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen.
“Coming in freshman year, you’re thinking, ‘I just want to play,’ ’’ said Banham, who ended her career last spring as the Big Ten’s all-time scoring leader and the sixth-highest scorer in NCAA women’s history. “And then, I started setting my goals high. But you never really think this is going to happen. It’s super cool.’’
Banham holds a stack of Gophers records, including most points in a season (914), most career three-pointers (354) and most career field goals (1,081). Last season she tied the NCAA’s single-game scoring record with 60 in a double-overtime victory at Northwestern.