Knights Under Lights: Cappie Pondexter
In Knights Under Lights, The Daily Targum looks at how players who distinguished themselves during their time on the Banks are currently performing in their respective professional leagues.
In five seasons with the Rutgers women's basketball team, former guard Cappie Pondexter boasts one of the most decorated careers of any athlete on the Banks. The four-time All-Big East star is one of the program's best and was named to the Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016.
Hailing from Chicago, Pondexter redshirted her freshman year before exploding on the scene the following season, as she became the Scarlet Knights' premiere offensive threat with an average of 18.3 points per game (PPG). She scored 209 points more than the next leading scorer and led her team to a 21-8 record in the 2002-2003 season.
After winning just nine games the previous season, Rutgers would finish 23rd in the AP Poll in Pondexter's first season of playing. She was named to the All-Big East First Team and was recognized as the 2002-2003 Big East Rookie of the Year.
The Knights would advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to Georgia 74-64 despite a solid all-around performance from Pondexter.
In her junior season, Pondexter made her second straight All-Big East First Team. In the following season, she led Rutgers to a first-place finish in the Big East behind incredibly efficient shooting splits of 45.8 percent from deep and 46 percent overall.
Pondexter scored 14.7 PPG in her senior year and led the Knights to the Elite Eight of the 2005 NCAA Tournament, where Rutgers was eventually bested by Tennessee 59-49. The player was then named to the NCAA Tournament All-Region Team and the All-Big East First Team once again for her performance that season.
Her efficiency only improved as a fifth-year senior, and that season, Pondexter turned in her best offensive campaign with the Knights. The 5-foot-9 guard averaged 21.6 points a night and made 48.3 percent of her shot attempts. She was named the 2005-06 Big East Player of the Year. Pondexter once again helped lead her team to finish in first place in the Big East, along with a perfect 16-0 conference record.
She became the first player in league history to be named to the All-Big East First Team four times. After ending her career on the Banks with the second-most points in program history, Pondexter set her sights on the WNBA and was drafted with the second overall pick by the Phoenix Mercury in the first round of the 2006 WNBA Draft, becoming the highest draft pick in school history.
Pondexter scored 19.5 PPG on a 44.2 percent field goal percentage as a rookie and started every game. She was named a WNBA All-Star in her inaugural season.
In 2007, Pondexter averaged 17.2 PPG on the way to a 23-11 record, securing the first seed in the Western Conference and a berth in the WNBA Finals. Despite falling into a 2-1 deficit to the Detroit Shock, Pondexter scored 26 points in a crucial Game 4 to eventually win the series and bring home that year's WNBA Finals MVP.
The 2009 Finals against the Indiana Fever was a similar story. After Pondexter led the Mercury to an identical 23-11 record averaging 19.1 PPG and five assists per game, she advanced to her second Finals berth in three years.
Against the Indiana Fever, Pondexter scored 23 points in an electric 120-116 overtime win in Game 1 before falling in another 2-1 hole. She turned in back-to-back efforts of more than 20 points to win her second WNBA Championship before being traded to the New York Liberty that offseason.
Pondexter was named an All-Star three times with the Liberty, starting 166 games and averaging 17.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists during her time with New York. In 2015, she was traded to the Chicago Sky, making one final All-Star team during that season. She had short stints with the Los Angeles Sparks and the Fever in 2018 before retiring in 2019.
The 13-year veteran enjoyed one of the greatest professional careers of any WNBA player or former Scarlet Knight. Her legacy will surely live on.
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