From an early age, Juliunn “JuJu” Redmond saw basketball as an opportunity. She saw an opportunity to compete, an opportunity to go to college, an opportunity that wouldn’t exist if not for Title IX.

“It was me wanting to better my life as a Black woman and wanting to be able to provide for my family because of the hardships and struggles I went through as a child, being raised in poverty and watching my mom struggle being a single parent of five kids,” said Redmond, a fifth-year guard on the Illinois State University women’s basketball team. “I just had this burning in me that I wanted to be better in life.”

Juliunn “JuJu” Redmond dribbles around a defender during Illinois State’s game against Purdue. (Photo credit: Dennis Banks, ISU Athletics)

Earning a scholarship was a game changer for Redmond, just as it has been for thousands of women over the past 50 years following the passage of Title IX on June 23, 1972. The federal civil rights law prohibits sex-based discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal funding, opening opportunities for women to play intercollegiate sports.

Redmond capitalized on her opportunity. Last season she earned All-Missouri Valley Conference First Team accolades after leading the Redbirds to their best conference record in eight years. She was also one of 27 student-athletes nationwide to be selected for the Scholar-Baller Academic Momentum Award First Team. A human development and family science major, Redmond hopes to play basketball professionally following graduation before pursuing a career in either coaching or early childhood education.

Aspiring doctor Mary Crompton ’21, a redshirt junior guard, said basketball has empowered her with confidence to navigate the traditionally male-dominated medical field.

EDI ISU wordmark with words equity, diversity, and inclusion is YOU, Illinois State University

An All-Valley Honorable mention selection last season as the Redbirds’ top 3-point shooter, Crompton completed her undergraduate degree in the spring and was awarded the Robert G. Bone Scholarship—the highest universitywide honor given to undergraduate students. She is now pursuing a master’s in biology.

“When I think of Title IX, it gives me a lot of thankfulness for everyone who came before who didn’t have the opportunities that I now have,” Crompton said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity that I get to be a student-athlete here every day and all the opportunities that come with that.”

Head coach Kristen Gillespie, a former standout player at North Carolina State during the late 1990s, sees firsthand the positive impact of intercollegiate women’s athletics—on student-athletes, on those who aspire to be athletes, and on society in general.

Illinois State women’s basketball head coach Kristen Gillespie (left) played for and coached with the late Kay Yow, NC State’s legendary coach for 34 seasons (photo taken before COVID-19 restrictions).

“I’m just so thankful that for young women now, it’s the norm to play sports,” Gillespie said. “For a long time, leaders in this country and leaders in the workforce were men, and I think that started from their experience in sports. Sports breeds leaders. I think we’re now catching up to that—that women can be just as powerful, just as great of leaders, and I think it stems from the opportunities that they get through sports.”

Gillespie developed strong leadership skills playing for and coaching with Kay Yow, a Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer who was hired as NC State’s first full-time women’s basketball coach in 1975. She amassed more than 700 career wins through 34 seasons.

“Coach Yow would tell us stories about how, when she was just getting started, she did the team laundry, she drove the bus, she would sew the uniforms if something happened. She did everything,” Gillespie said. “She made it a point to instill in us that Title IX was really important and for us to be really thankful for the opportunities we had—because it wasn’t always like that.”

Dr. Jill Hutchison, M.S. ’69

When Gillespie was hired as Illinois State’s head coach in 2017, she arrived with a deep appreciation for former Redbird coach and Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Dr. Jill Hutchison, M.S. ’69 who, along with Yow, was a trailblazer for the advancement of women’s athletics before and after the implementation of Title IX.

As a graduate student, Hutchison helped disprove a long-held theory that women weren’t physically capable of playing full-court basketball. She was a catalyst for nationwide growth in popularity of the women’s game while earning 461 Redbird wins over 28 seasons.

“There’s nothing that excites me more than when Coach Hutchison comes and watches our practice and speaks to our team, or after a game I pull her aside and ask, ‘Hey, what do you think?’ She’s been there. She’s done that,” Gillespie said.

Crompton, a recipient of the Jill Hutchison Endowed Scholarship, said Hutchison is a role model for the entire program. “The perspective that she brings to the game of basketball, all the success that she’s had, and considering the pioneer that she was for women’s sports—it’s incredible,” Crompton said.

Mary Crompton ’21 elevates for a shot against Evansville. (Photo credit: Dennis Banks, ISU Athletics)

While the team looks up to Hutchison, Gillespie knows that young Redbird fans are watching and learning from the players. “It’s our job to carry that torch; the torch that Coach Hutchison and Coach Yow carried,” Gillespie said.

“We want to make sure that we’re doing our part of putting strong, young women in front of them, where they can come to a game and look on the court and say, ‘I can see myself out there.’”

Reflecting on how far women’s basketball has come over the past 50 years, Redmond said it’s exciting to think about how it can expand for the next generation of players.

“Even when looking at the WNBA now—how women are able to move up and down the court at the age of 30. The way they can jump off the ground and elevate to the rim. I feel like we are still being under looked in a lot of areas. But I feel like we are doing everything we can to elevate our game,” Redmond said.

“As women, we are always fighting against adversity, and I feel like we never let each other down. We always try to battle. ”

Illinois State Athletics has begun a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the adoption of Title IX, culminating with a celebratory event at the Bone Student Center June 24-26, 2022. Visit for more information. The Illinois State women’s basketball team is also hosting a National Girls and Women in Sport Celebration in conjunction with the home game against Missouri State on February 18, 2022 at 6 p.m.