Kirkland therapist Liz Bruno grabs honor for hauling in 1,218 rebounds at Santa Clara University

Former Santa Clara University basketball player Liz Bruno, at left with her brother John and at right during her college days, had her Bronco jersey retired last Saturday. She grabbed a school record 1,218 rebounds from 1978-1982. - Courtesy photos
Former Santa Clara University basketball player Liz Bruno, at left with her brother John and at right during her college days, had her Bronco jersey retired last Saturday. She grabbed a school record 1,218 rebounds from 1978-1982.
— image credit: Courtesy photos

Some kids shoot baskets into a hoop lodged onto their family’s garage door.

Liz Bruno had the garage thing down, but no hoop.

As a grammar school student living in the San Francisco area in the early 1970s, Bruno tossed a basketball onto the open garage door, which acted as a shelf. If she landed the ball on the shelf in between the two bedroom windows above, it was a basket.

On those dark nights, Bruno made plenty of baskets, but she also smashed a few windows.

“My family took out a lot of homeowners’ insurance,” Bruno, 53, said with a laugh on Monday.

The 18-year Redmond resident and licensed clinical therapist in the dual diagnosis unit at Fairfax Hospital in Kirkland, returned from the Bay Area the day before after having her Santa Clara University (SCU) jersey — No. 42 — retired at a Bronco game last Saturday. Bruno played for SCU from 1978 through 1982 and holds the school career women’s and men’s record for rebounds with 1,218, is 16th on the school all-time points list with 1,081 and is the only Bronco women’s basketball player with 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

Bruno said that about 150 people — including family members, friends, former teammates and coaches — attended last Saturday’s game to celebrate her honor. Current members of the  team at Mercy High, where Bruno attended school, were also on hand to cheer on the woman who helped pave the basketball road for them.

“It was such a blast. It was the greatest weekend of my life,” said the member of the SCU Hall of Fame. “When I walked into the gym, everything just exploded (with excitement). It was so moving — very powerful.”

Bruno remembers that her time on the court at Mercy High in Burlingame was crucial to her success at SCU. As a junior, her team compiled a 17-2 record and notched the Girls Private School League championship.

However, they had to find a new league to play in the next season.

“They kicked us out. We were too dominant,” said Bruno, whose team won the South Peninsula Athletic League crown as a senior, and then she moved onto the next level at SCU. Bruno noted that her Mercy High coach, Naomi Tuite, instilled a positive mental attitude into her players that helped them succeed in prep and college basketball — and in life.

Bruno, who stood at 6-foot-2 in her college days, said she possessed the desire to play well, and that feeling the sensation of being “zoned in” on the court was tough to beat.

“Whatever Liz sets her mind to — she ends up being ‘the best.’ In the case of her unprecedented and unbroken rebounding record, she wanted to excel in this sport and so she committed the time and practice that was required. Liz is always a team player, on and off the court,” said Kathleen Bruno, Liz’s sister.

Nowadays, Liz is an active member of the St. Jude Catholic Church in Redmond and also participates in prison ministry when she’s not at her full-time job at Fairfax Hospital.

Liz puts heaps of effort into everything she does wherever she’s communicating with people.

“I am strength based. I’m very positive. I’m team oriented. I’m hopeful — that’s how I roll,” Liz said.

Added Kathleen about Liz: “In her job, her passion for helping people overcome seemingly insurmountable difficulties (addictions, suicide attempts, broken families, character dysfunctions and other challenges) stems from her unwavering belief in the goodness of people, their capacity to embrace change when the stakes are made high enough and her deep faith.”

Liz will return to SCU this Saturday for the Bronco Legends Night, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of women’s sports at SCU.

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