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Buffalo’s Best / Women’s No. 4: Yvette Angel

The Buffalo News polled sports staffers as to the top 10 male and female athletes from Western New York. Here’s No. 4 among women:

Name: Yvette Angel.

Sport: Basketball.

Hometown: Buffalo.

High school: Sacred Heart.

Born: Oct. 14, 1963.

Career overview: Angel was a standout point guard for powerhouse Sacred Heart Academy in the late 1970s. Her high school career coincided with the Sharks 109-game winning streak. She averaged 23.9 points a game for Sacred Heart ,and her 1,511 career points still ranks her in the top 50 of Western New York’s all-time leading scorers.

Angel earned a scholarship to Ohio State, where she played for another Buffalo-area basketball legend, Tara Vanderveer. Those Buckeye teams were the beginning of both Vanderveer’s basketball coaching genius and establishing Ohio State as an up-and-coming powerhouse in the sport. While Angel was at Ohio State, the team went 93-22, reaching the NCAA Tournament twice.

Statement player: Angel’s impact on the Ohio State program still figures prominently in the record books. She twice was an All-Big Ten player (1983, 1985). Her 1,563 career points still rank 12th all-time while she ranks third in career assists (562) and second in steals (326).

Angel twice had 14 assists in a game – at Pittsburgh on Dec. 10, 1983 and at Syracuse on Dec. 8, 1984. That record stood until March 25, 2001, when Jamie Lewis had 17 assists.

Angel’s 10 steals against Illinois State on Nov. 21, 1984 still rank second for a single game in Buckeyes’ program history.

NCAA Tournament: The Buckeyes played in the first round of the NCAA tourney Angel’s freshman year. Then came the 1984-85 season, when the team went undefeated (18-0) in Big Ten play and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight. That began a run where the Buckeyes advanced to the Elite Eight or Sweet 16 over five years.

Vanderveer on Angel: While Vanderveer has coached several highly talented players at Stanford, she said that Angel remains one of the best she ever worked with. “She was just a phenomenal player,” Vanderveer said. “She was a great leader. She was a heady player. If you needed a big play, she would make it.

“She was such a poised player. She started as a freshman and came into a program that already had a few talented players and fit right in as a freshman. She was extremely humble. She did not care about awards. She was unselfish and wanted to win. She was the type of player every coach dreams of having.”

Memorable moment: To Angel, the best moments were the ones with her teammates. She remains close with the other women in her class from Ohio State. What does stand out is a series Ohio State had with Iowa during her playing career, a time when women’s college basketball didn’t have a widespread following.

“The most memorable thing to me is the class that I came in with at Ohio State,” Angel said. “And I would say being one of the first women’s basketball programs that sold out an arena. It was against Iowa and they were able to sell it out. They did a great job promoting it and Title IX was a factor at that point. It was just a milestone for women’s basketball and to be part of it, as players coming out on the court and seeing all these people, we were a little shell shocked initially. They had to turn people away. We ended up winning, too.”

Trailblazer: Angel was among the first generation of female athletes who benefitted from Title IX yet the evolution of the game, and of women’s sports, very much occurred on her watch.

“You can’t help but to compare and see what the guys are getting and the lack of support we had for our program back when I was playing,” Angel said. “I went back to Ohio State recently and to see the facilities they have and the theater seating, they’re very fortunate. We really did have to struggle and fight for everything. I grew up in the city of Buffalo and had the opportunity to see the world and follow my passion and my dreams athletically and academically.

“I hope I can give back to the community and to the sport of basketball. It wasn’t always acceptable for a young lady to be out there competing with the boys, walking around with a basketball in your hand and to have your arms all cut. Now, it’s a different thing. It’s great to be athletic. Back in the day, I struggled with that as a young girl, being an athlete and called a tomboy and not having that accepted by others.”

WNBA: In 1997, Angel played for the Sacramento Monarchs of the WNBA. She then became an assistant for the team the next year.

Coaching career:  Angel was hired as a full-time assistant coach at Notre Dame in 1989. She was an assistant in the WNBA and also coached high school girls in California. She returned to Buffalo to become the athletic director at Sacred Heart in 2012, leaving that post in 2013 to become the girls basketball coach at Sweet Home.

Back in WNY: Angel continues to coach at Sweet Home and lives in Buffalo. She returned to the area for a familiar Western New York reason – family. And while she’s here, she hopes she can make a difference.

“I came back to be with my mom,” Angel said. “I wanted to be close to my mom to make sure she’s taken care of. I do hope I can impact basketball here and be a role model for the sport in Western New York.”