Dayton's Justine Raterman looks to make a pass against St Bonaventure in 2012. ERIK SCHELKUN/CONTRIBUTED

Archdeacon: Grit, heart epitomized Raterman’s hall of fame career for Flyers

The day before – in the semifinal game against Temple – Raterman, then a 6-foot-1 junior forward for the Dayton Flyers, had crumpled to the court with a serious knee injury and it seemed almost certain she would be sidelined for the title game with Xavier.

She had torn her ACL, though it would not be officially diagnosed until an MRI after the tournament confirmed the severity of the injury. Undaunted, Raterman was determined to take the floor against the rival Musketeers.

“Justine was in the locker room getting her new brace adjusted, and when she suddenly walked out onto the court, it was like Willis Reed limping out of the dressing room at Madison Square Garden for the final game of the (1970) NBA championship,” Jim Jabir, then the Flyers head coach, was saying the other day.

“They had a 6-foot-5 kid for Xavier – Amber Harris, who end up one of the top picks in the WNBA draft (No. 4 overall) – she sees Justine come hobbling out and she goes ‘Ohhh crap!!!’

The memory made Jabir laugh:

“Here’s this kid who’s going to be a top draft pick and she’s afraid of slow, white Justine, who just destroyed her ACL.

“That moment epitomized Justine’s career.”

While Reed would lead the New York Knicks over the Los Angeles Lakers that day, UD would fall to Xavier, 67-60, but not because of Raterman.

Playing through the pain on one sound leg, she scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds. And the 21-11 Flyers were impressive enough that they would get an NCAA Tournament bid a few days later.

And less than eight months later – following surgery and almost miraculous recovery – Raterman was back on the court for UD as the team captain and a third, straight MVP season, which would culminate in another trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Jabir was reminiscing about Raterman the other afternoon just a few hours before his current Florida Atlantic University team would play at Old Dominion.

It’s been a tough year for the Owls, who are one of the youngest college teams in the nation and have won just three games.

So now, as he awaits better times, Jabir thought back to some of the best of times – when his Flyers teams went to six straight NCAA Tournaments – and he especially thought about Raterman.

She’s an assistant coach on Megan Duffy’s Miami RedHawks staff now, but Sunday she will be celebrated again as a Dayton Flyer when she’s inducted in the UD Athletic Hall of Fame along with women’s soccer player Colleen Williams and football player Bill Sahnd.

“She was one of the kids who helped turn the program around and make it a legitimate, nationally-ranked program,” Jabir said. “Her deciding to come on board really helped the program transform.

“I’m personally in debt to her.”

A four-time All-Atlantic 10 Conference selection, as well as a four-time all-tournament team honoree, Raterman ranks fifth all-time in scoring at UD with 1,832 points and is fifth in rebounds with 915.

She graduated with a double major in mathematics and science, education and allied studies and in 2012 was recognized as a Lowe’s Senior Class First Team All American for her contributions on the court, in the classroom and in the community

“If you were looking for a daughter you could be amazingly proud of, she checks off all the boxes,” Jabir said. “She was just amazing and that’s why she’s so well-deserving now.”

Building a program at UD

Raterman grew up in Versailles, the Darke County community known for its three-day extravaganza each June – Poultry Days – and its year-round embrace of high school sports.

While she was never crowned the Miss Chick at the big summer fest, Raterman wore a sash of royalty like no other young woman from Versailles.

She led the Tigers – coached by her older sister, Jacki Stonebraker, who was assisted by brother, Joe – to the Division III state championship and was named the MVP of the tournament.

While she got offers from several schools – including Vanderbilt, Iowa, Florida State and Bowling Green – she said she believed in Jabir’s vision for the program and chose UD.

“Dayton just felt like home,” Raterman said. “Coach Jabir had this passion – he had done it before at other places – and you could sense he was going to turn it around at Dayton, too.

“It was an important for me to have an impact in a program, to be a part of changing something and not just be another name in a program that already was established.

“Probably the best decision of my life was going to Dayton. It was the perfect place for me. It really gave me every single opportunity I have now.”

Before Raterman came to UD, the Flyers’ women had never gone to the NCAA Tournament. By the time she left they had gone to three in a row and were on their way to six straight trips and now have eight appearances in the past nine years.

“By the time I graduated, the NCAA Tournament was something that was expected,” Raterman said. “That’s something my teammates and I are proud of.”

After graduating from UD, she played professionally for a short while in Portugal and then returned home to a good job as an operations research analyst for Booz Allen Hamilton at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

Although she worked there 3 ½ years, during that time she also helped coach the Dayton Lady Hoopstars, assisted her sister for a season at Versailles and then became assistant at Fairmont High School.

“I started to realize that I was filling every other hour of the day away from the job with basketball,” she said. “Finally, I was like, ‘This is what I want to do.’

“I had a good job and I liked it, but it wasn’t my passion.”

Former Dayton standout Justine Raterman, now an assistant coach for the Miami women’s basketball team, instructs players during a practice this week. Maria Slovikovski/Miami University
Photo: columnist

With the Hoopstars she coached the daughter of Cleve Wright, then the Miami women’s coach. He and his wife encouraged her as coach, she said, and three seasons ago – while taking a hefty pay cut – she gave up her job at the base and became the director of video operations for the Miami women’s program.

Wright was fired after the season and Duffy was hired. But while new coaches usually jettison the staff of the previous coach, Duffy said she was told by a few people to take a good look at Raterman.

She did and was sold.

She kept Raterman as the video director for a season and this year made her a full-time assistant coach.

‘Surreal’ accomplishment

“She came into my office (recently) and said, ‘Hey Coach, we still going to have Sunday off?’” Duffy said with a laugh. “I said yeah, absolutely. Why is something going on?

“And she goes, ‘Oh, I got into the Hall of Fame at Dayton. I said, ‘What? We’re all coming.’

“She hadn’t said anything about it before. She’s very humble and doesn’t rest on her accomplishments as a player.”

While Raterman said she has learned from all the coaches she has played for or coached alongside, she’s also drawn from her own playing experience.

“As a coach sometime you can be very traditional and get caught up in the Xs and Os,” she said. “But at the end of the day, it comes down to grit, heart and who wants it more.”

Rhode Island sophomore Emilie Cloutier (20) and UD senior Justine Raterman (34) battle for position Saturday, Jan. 7, at UD Arena.
Photo: Peter Wine

Helping Miami prepare for two games in the last four days, she said she wouldn’t focus on her Hall of Fame enshrinement until Sunday’s induction ceremony, which will be followed by an on-court introduction at halftime of the Flyers game with Massachusetts at UD Arena.

“It’s pretty surreal,” she said. “I’m proud, but it hasn’t really hit me what it all means yet.

“What I do know is that my career and this honor are testament to what the program is. I wasn’t some crazy athletic person or some dominant scorer. I got all this because of my team and the fact that I was at the best place for me. Dayton offered me a lot.”

Like she said, she didn’t want to be just another name.

And she’s not.

She a Hall of Famer.

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