Women's basketball pioneer Nera White dies at 80

GALLATIN, Tenn. -- Nera White, one of the first female basketball players inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, has died. She was 80 years old.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame issued a release Thursday confirming White's death. Officials at Alexander Funeral Home in Lafayette, Tennessee, said that White died Wednesday at Sumner Regional Medical Center in Gallatin, Tennessee.

A pioneer of women's basketball, White was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

"Nera White was a true pioneer and trailblazer of the women's game," said John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame. "Her skill and athleticism was undoubtedly ahead of her time, and she paved the way for the generations of tremendous female athletes that have followed in her footsteps."

White also entered the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999 as part of its inaugural induction class.

At the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony for White, former teammate Judy Coble called her "probably one of the greatest athletes to ever play the game." Coble cited White's speed, unselfishness and love for the game as traits that helped her stand out.

Playing in an era decades before Title IX or the dawning of the WNBA, White made her impact on the AAU circuit. She was selected the most outstanding player in 10 different AAU national tournaments and was named an AAU All-American 15 times. She also led the U.S. team to a title in the 1957 World Basketball Championships and was named the most valuable player of that event.

White attended Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, which didn't have a women's basketball team. She instead played on a team sponsored by Nashville Business College and helped that club win 10 AAU national titles from 1955-69.