By Scott Latta
UA Media Relations
Former Alabama women’s basketball player Shelly Pyles Cunningham was honored in the 2007 class of the SEC Greats program Thursday at the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga.
The SEC Greats program features female athletes and administrators from various women’s sports at all SEC institutions.
Pyles, who played at Alabama from 1985-88 and took the Alabama women’s basketball to the NCAA tournament as a senior, said she is honored by the recognition.
“I was very honored to be picked,” she said. “You think that out of all the women’s athletic programs we have at Alabama, and especially being 41 years old and being honored, it’s a big honor.”
A native of Haleyville, Ala., Pyles graduated with Alabama’s game, season and career records for both assists and steals. Despite the 20 years between her days on the court and today, she still ranks second all-time in steals and fourth in assists for the Tide and is still the single-game assist leader with 16.
Her on-the-court success, she says, is still meaningful after the two decades since her days at the Capstone.
“When you sit around a table and talk about stuff, [the records] come up quite often,” she said. “You look at the number of years we’ve had basketball and I’m still number four in career assists and still have the record for single-game assists; it means a lot that they’ve held up.”
Pyles set the Alabama record for assists in a season during her junior year, when the 5’5” guard recorded 167 for the Tide in 29 games. Despite her short stature on the court which earned her a Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award nomination for top six senior players in America under 5’5” she led the Tide in rebounding four times that year.
The evolution of women’s basketball, including the implementation of the 3-point line which came during her senior year, has led to the preservation of some of those records, she said.
“It has [been a surprise] that they’ve held up, but I think the game has changed just a bit,” she said. “You see more scoring out of a point guard now than you used to, and we didn’t have the 3-point line...and now with that I don’t think you’re going to see the assists that you used to from a point guard.”
During her time at Alabama, Pyles was recognized for her work off-the-court as much as she was for her performance on it. She was a three-time Academic All-SEC honoree and graduated with a degree in Secondary Education Comprehensive Science. After graduating from Alabama in 1988, Pyles attended pharmacy school at Auburn University and drove back to Tuscaloosa every weekend for home Alabama games.
“I think that [being Academic All-SEC] means more to me than the records because I use that to do what I do every day,” she said. “I’m a pharmacist and it took that for me to be admitted to pharmacy school and I’m really proud of that, more so than the athletic side.”
Pyles Cunningham lives in Winfield, Ala. with her husband Brad and son, Trey.
Previous honorees from Alabama to be named “SEC Greats” include Penney Hauschild Buxton (2006), Pauline Davis Thompson (2005), Yolanda Watkins (2004), Linda Burgess (2003), Lilli Leatherwood (2002) and Niesa Johnson (2001).