In elementary school Kathy Goggin was so tall she played on boys basketball teams and towered over the lads.
She entered the seventh grade as a precocious redhead at 5-foot-9 and by the time she got to Long Beach Wilson High School was "not huge, just a thick" 6-2.
Goggin, now 6-3, will lumber onto the basketball court at Cal State Dominguez Hills for the last time Saturday night, the fourth-ranked rebounder and ninth-highest scorer in the school's history. She is one of the few students to complete four years of basketball at Dominguez Hills, and school officials acclaim that she is their first Rhodes Scholarship candidate. In the fall she'll enroll in a doctoral program at USC.
But soon she'll face life without basketball, a scary part of the game that all athletes reach.
"The big void," is what Dominguez Hills Coach Van Girard called it.
It's a time when the future seems frightening to a 22-year old senior who admits to being "a big baby" when it comes to everyday things.
"I have led a sheltered life," she said.
Basketball is a great equalizer that teaches young people to overcome obstacles, according to Girard. In Goggin's case, her love for basketball came despite discomfort in both knees, a dislocated shoulder, surgery to correct tumors on toes and bone spurs in both feet. She overcame those obstacles, so Girard suggests she'll adjust to "the real world."
"She already has the knowledge and ability to be successful," he said.
Not that life without basketball won't mean a little adjustment. Early on she discovered that playing a sport was an easy way for a plump freckle-faced kid to win a little respect.
"By high school it was no easy picture for me," she said of her increasing height, which often drew rude comments. "Going through that made me stronger. I believe I can handle just about anything now."
Goggin says she has had an average career, playing on a series of teams from high school to college that had difficulties finishing .500. This season Goggin has had a disappointing time. She averages only 8.6 points and 5.6 rebounds a game.
"I haven't had the productive year I would have liked," she said.
Girard, a successful high school coach completing his first-year at Dominguez Hills, feels Goggin did not get the proper training during her college career.
"If I had had her for four years I feel her statistics would have been much more impressive," he said.
Goggin, however, isn't so sure. "I am not a phenomenal player," she said.
She has been phenomenal in the classroom, however. At Wilson she received just one grade below A. It was a borderline B that came as a sophomore in a Spanish class. At Dominguez Hills she has fared almost as well, posting a cumulative 3.895 grade-point average.
"I am not brilliant," she said. "I just work hard."
Goggin received quite a bit of attention in high school, ironically, she says, because of her height. Her college choices boiled down to UCLA or Dominguez Hills. UCLA wasn't interested in her as a basketball player so she chose Dominguez Hills because "I wanted to play."
Four years later she has become one of the school's brightest spokespersons and its most vocal critic. Because the enrollment is small for a state college, she said, class sizes allow for a more personal relationship between instructors and students.
Because the school has ethnic diversity and a wider age span of students, she said, she came across a variety of viewpoints in class.
She has criticized the school for not publicizing its strong points, a sore point with administrators. She feels she has not received enough attention as a Rhodes scholar candidate, a fact she feels would bring added credibility to a state college that has a bad rap as an inner-city dead end.
Goggin had a slight interest in medicine when her sister, Jill, then 23, gave birth to her second child about three years ago. Jill asked Kathy to be her delivery room coach.
"It was such a phenomenal experience watching that baby being born," Kathy said. "It got me interested in health-related issues."
Goggin plans to earn her doctorate in clinical psychology with the hope that she can lead a movement that will bring full-time psychology departments to major hospitals handling the terminally ill.
Goggin picked at a blueberry muffin during breakfast the other day at a Long Beach restaurant. Weight, like height, has been a constant in her life.
"I'm just the Goodyear Blimp in hiding," she joked.
She was contemplating the answers to questions about her life after basketball. Among her worries, she said, would be the little things in life.
"This may sound stupid," she said. "But I haven't paid rent in my life. How do you get a telephone anyway? I don't know."
The tone of the conversation sounded serious enough, but somehow it was hard to believe that Goggin would have trouble surviving--with or without basketball--when she faces her real world.