Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lieberman's Son Commits to Join Niagara Program

The son of one of the greatest women's players in basketball history is coming to the MAAC.

T.J. Cline, the 17-year old son of all-time great Nancy Lieberman, recently made a verbal commitment to join the Niagara program for the coming season.

Cline is a 6-foot-7 forward who averaged 16.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals in his only varsity season playing at Plano West High School in Texas. Cline was particularly strong late in the season, averaging about 25 points per game during his team's state playoff tournament run.

"We lovingly tell people he is the Jeremy Lin of college basketball," said Lieberman, in a recent interview with Jonah Bronstein of the Niagara Gazette. "He didn't play varsity basketball until his senior season and then he had this breakout season. I'm his mom and even I'm sitting in the stands thinking, wow, this kid is pretty good."

Cline initially intended to attend the Air Force Academy before opting to join the Niagara program. He had also drawn interest from Long Island University and Sam Houston State.

Cline might get right into the playing group at Niagara, which was height-challenged this past season.

And, if genetics are any indication, the Purple Eagles should be getting a good one.

His mom is in the sport's Hall of Fame, was a two-time Olympian, a three-time college All-American and was part of two national championship teams at Old Dominion.

Her career was good enough for her to have earned the nickname "Lady Magic."

After college she began a pro career in 1981 in the Women's Professional Basketball League, led the team to a championship in 1984 and was the league's MVP.

She is also recognized as the only woman to play in a men's professional sports league. In 1986 she played with the Springfield Fame of the United States Basketball League and, in 1987, she joined the Long Island Knights of the same league.

In 1988, she toured as a member of the Washington Generals, the opponent of the Harlem Globetrotters.

In 1997, at age 39, she came out of retirement and played in the inaugural season of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), becoming the oldest player to ever play in that league. More than a decade later she broke that record when she returned to the WNBA for a game at age 50.

The MAAC has seen sons of famous fathers before. One that immediately comes to mind is the Burtt family. Both father, Steve Burtt Sr., and son, Steve Burtt Jr., had spectacular careers at Iona.

The elder Burtt finished with 2,534 career points for the Gaels while the younger Burtt accumulated 2,034 career points.

The MAAC, though, has never before had the child from a former player as accomplished as T.J. Cline's mom, Nancy Lieberman.

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