RALEIGH — Mindy Ballou Fitzpatrick calls Friday night the greatest sports moment of her life. That is quite a statement considering her athletic achievements.
The former West Carteret and University of South Carolina basketball All-American and surfing national champion was enshrined in the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
“It was crazy,” she said. “I don’t know how to explain it. I’m still blown away by it, in awe, humbled and honored for sure. It was an awesome event.”
A member of the West Carteret High School Athletic Hall of Fame and the Carteret County Sports Hall of Fame, she is the first county native and the first-ever surfer to be enshrined.
“I was so different from everybody else, which was kind of nice,” she said. “The surfing thing seemed to turn everybody’s heads. It was unusual. They didn’t know anything about surfing, so it gave me the chance to educate people about so many wonderful surfers from North Carolina. It was neat to let them know about our sport.”
Winning the Women’s Amateur National Championship in 1994 highlighted her outstanding surfing career. In September of that year, she became the first North Carolinian to win the Junior Women’s Division of the Eastern Surfing Association. She won the same title again in 1995. Just prior to the 1994 win, she took first in the Women’s Division at the East Coast Surfing Championships in Virginia Beach, Va.
Ballou Fitzpatrick was part of a 15-member class that was enshrined during the 55th annual induction banquet at the Raleigh Convention Center. And if the event was her greatest sports moment, she counted her ability to hold off tears during her speech as one of her greatest physical achievements.
“I was so worried I was going to cry,” she said. “I would get teary-eyed just thinking about it. I don’t mind speaking, but pouring your heart out in front of 1,400 people is tough. It was divine intervention that I didn’t cry.”
In her allotted four-minute speech, she gave tribute to the legacy of her parents and her family and friends, many of whom made the trip to support her. Ballou Fitzpatrick had three tables of family and friends at the event.
“They are the reason I’m here,” she said. “I got it out without crying. I’m not sure how, but I was a happy girl. I wanted to do it right and give the people the credit that deserve it.”
There have been 336 men and women previously enshrined in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
Donna Andrews, Scott Bankhead, Hal “Skinny” Brown, Chris Cammack, Joey Cheek, Wes Chesson, Laura DuPont, Bill Hayes, Jack Holley, Paul Jones, Mike Martin, Frank “Jakie” May, Joe West, Fred Whitfield and Ballou Fitzpatrick pushed that number to 351 this year.
“The class I went in with is amazing from top to bottom,” she said.
In addition to a plaque and a ring, she also received a custom-designed wooden chair.
A surfboard, featuring West Carteret and South Carolina mascot emblems and her jersey No. 32, designed by Bobby Webb of Action Surf Shop, took its place among the memorabilia at the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
A two-time All-American at West Carteret (1981, 1982), she was an inaugural member of the high school’s Hall of Fame. She is the only West athlete to have her jersey retired and still holds the Patriots’ all-time scoring records for games (44), season average (25.9) and career points (1,899).
She is one of just two female players – joining East Carteret’s Kim Oden – to earn three News-Times Player of the Year awards. The News-Times then tabbed her as the county’s Athlete of the Century as the calendar turned from 1999 to 2000.
She followed with a similarly spectacular four-year career (1983-1986) at South Carolina that included three selections to All-American teams. She is one of only four players in program history to earn three All-American honors and one of just 16 players to earn All-American status.
She has always been considered one of the program’s all-time greats, and that reputation was cemented last year when The State released its list of the top 25 players in school history. She was ranked No. 6 on the newspaper’s list.
Ballou Fitzpatrick is still scattered throughout the South Carolina record book.
She held the career assists record (total and average) for 18 years before Cristina Ciocan broke it in 2004. Ballou Fitzpatrick had 595 assists and a 5.2 average, while Ciocan finished with 615 and 5.3.
Ballou Fitzpatrick still holds season records for total assists (219 in 1983-1984) and average assists (7.3 in 1983-1984) and most assists by a sophomore (219 in 1983-1984) and a senior (174 in 1985-1986). She is tied for second for most assists in a game with 14. She hit that mark twice, first in 1984 and then in 1986.
She is also third in career free-throw percentage (75.4), sixth in average minutes per season (37.2 in 1985-1986), eighth in total minutes in a season (1,116 in 1985-1986) and 22nd on the all-time scoring list with 1,199 points.
She led the team during the 1985-1986 campaign when the Gamecocks went 19-11 and won the program’s first conference regular season and tournament championships to earn their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in four years.
Since her basketball and surfing days, Ballou Fitzpatrick has been a philanthropic and business leader in the county.
She ran a popular nonprofit basketball camp for girls, known as Mindy’s Hoop Clinic, for 13 years.
For the past 11 years, she and her husband, Matt, with help from son, Matt Jr., and daughter, Annie, have run The Friendly Market in Morehead City. The establishment, which includes Mindy’s Baked Goods, Friendly Market Produce and The Nursery, has grown by leaps and bounds since it opened in 2008.