Greatest Athlete in Connecticut History Tournament: Joan Joyce vs. Jen Rizzotti

It’s summertime, and that means it’s time for another SportzEdge ® Bracket-style, 64-team tournament! Feel the excitement!!!

Last year, we changed the course of modern human civilization with the Coolest NCAA Logo Tournament, which became a national phenomenon along the lines of a presidential election, Caitlyn Jenner’s ESPY speech, or DeAndre Jordan changing his mind about where he wants to play basketball.

This year, we decided to take on a question scholars have been debating since the 1800’s, maybe.

Who is the greatest athlete in Connecticut history?

There are plenty of outstanding candidates, from Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, to four-time Boston Marathon champion Bill Rogers, to all-time great featherweight boxer Willie Pep.

The athletes we considered must have grown up in Connecticut, and we counted only their prowess on the playing field, so coaches, executives and contributors like Walter Camp were not considered.




3. Joan Joyce

Softball, Basketball, Golf


1st Round: Defeated 14. Moe Drabowsky 84.87% to 15.13%

Famous for striking out Ted Williams at an exhibition event in Waterbury, Joyce was a ridiculous all-around athlete and undoubtedly one of the greatest softball players of all-time. The numbers speak for themselves: a 753-42 career record, 150 career no-hitters, 50 perfect games, a lifetime ERA of 0.09 and a batting average of .324.

But it wasn’t just softball that Joyce excelled in. She wasn’t half-bad in basketball either, setting a single-game scoring record for the U.S. national team by pouring in 67 points. That record still stands.

If all that weren’t enough, Joyce also played 19 years on the LPGA Tour, setting a world record for the fewest amount of putts in a single round (17), and played professional volleyball with the Connecticut Clippers.

Now that’s an athlete.

She is the Babe Didrickson-Zaharias of Connecticut, and unfortunately, not many people know about her.

rizzotti ut1 Greatest Athlete in Connecticut History Tournament: Joan Joyce vs. Jen Rizzotti

6. Jen Rizzotti

Women’s Basketball

New Fairfield

1st Round: Defeated 11. Eugene Robinson 95.82% to 4.18%

One of the best–and most important–players in UConn history, Rizzotti first starred on the courts in New Fairfield, where the town park now bears her name. The New Fairfield High grad became one of the best women’s basketball players in the country at UConn, where she helped lead the Huskies to a perfect season (35-0) in 1995, and the school’s first-ever national championship.

Rizzotti only got better in ’96, as she won the Associated Press Player of the Year award, the Naismith Award and the Honda-Broderick Cup as the College Female Athlete of the Year.

She went on to play professionally with the New England Blizzard (located in Hartford) of the American Basketball League, and then in the WNBA with the Houston Comets.

Today, Rizzotti is the head coach at the University of Hartford, where she has led the Hawks to four trips to the NCAA Tournament. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

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