Story Links

Dec. 21, 2004

Spotlight on Tara McKnight

by Cathy Bongiovi Stewart

For walk-on Tara McKnight, attending the University of Virginia has been a life-long dream. This season she added playing basketball for the Cavaliers to her list of accomplishments.

“I’ve always wanted to go here since I was four or five,” said McKnight. “It’s a great school. That’s just where my heart was. I didn’t want to go to a smaller school just to play basketball when I could go to UVa and get a really good education.”

Perhaps UVa has been in her blood since birth. McKnight’s father Tom is a Virginia graduate and former Cavalier golfer (1973-76). McKnight caddied for her father at the 1999 Master’s Tournament. Her older brother Tee graduated from UVa in 2000.

Joining the Cavaliers after an open try-out, the sophomore’s collegiate basketball career didn’t get started until this season. McKnight also tried out for the Virginia squad last year as a freshman, but didn’t make the team.

“It wasn’t fun to not make it, but I kept working,” McKnight shared. “I played club basketball last year, and I played pick-up every day that I could get in the gym. This year I was very lucky and excited to be on the team.”

The four-year letterwinner from Hilton Head (S.C.) Prep averaged 16.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game as a senior. A three-time team captain, she was an All-State honoree.

As a junior, scored the 1,000th point of her prep career. McKnight also played AAU basketball for the Low Country Round Ballers where she was a state all-tournament team member, helping the Round Ballers capture the South Carolina state championship in 2001.

With hard work and persistence, McKnight now dons a UVa uniform.

“I came back as soon as school started up, and I asked Coach Ryan if I could have another shot at it, and she game me the opportunity,” McKnight said. “I came back, played pick-up and did everything I could do. Then when try-outs finally started, I was able to do everything with (the team). On the first day of practice, she told me after practice that I made it. It was great.”

McKnight saw her dream come true on Dec. 12- her 20th birthday- as she played in her first game, UVa’s win over Maine in the Women’s Sports Foundation Classic.

“It was fun,” McKnight said. “It was 20 seconds, but it was fun.”

Since then, McKnight has seen action in four Cavalier contests. She scored her first collegiate basket in the 76-55 win at Northwestern.

“When she came out (for the team) this year, she was vastly improved,” head coach Debbie Ryan said. “Tara’s a very good shooter. She will bring good leadership. She’s a great person for our program. Tara is someone who exudes all the great qualities and characteristics of a Virginia basketball player. She has a great work ethic.”

McKnight hopes to use that work ethic to help the Cavaliers to a successful season.

“I just want to help the team get better. If it has to be in practice, then that’s what I’ll do, just encourage everybody,” she said. “I’d like to see us do well in the ACC, make it to the (NCAA) tournament, and have a winning season.”

With McKnight’s winning attitude, anything is possible.

Get to Know Tara McKnight


Food: RibsIce cream: VanillaColor: OrangeWNBA Team: Charlotte StingActor: Denzel Washington, Richard GereActress: Julia Roberts, Sandra BullockTV Show: C.S.I.Children’s Book: The Giving TreeSpot on Grounds: The Lawn & University HallClass at UVa: Sports Psychology

My advice to a young athlete is …
never give up. Just keep working and always follow your dreams.

The people I admire most are …
my parents, because they’ve taught me to work hard and to be a good person.

The best thing about being a Cavalier is …
being a part of the team and living my dream.

I chose Virginia, because …
my whole life I have wanted to go here.

I admire Debbie Ryan, because …
she’s a winner and has accomplished so much.

Print Friendly Version