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Published: Sunday, 1/21/2007

UT's top scorer started every game

High-scoring Kim Knuth also ranks first for Toledo in steals (368), fourth in assists (484) and eighth in rebounds (779). In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports writer Joe Vardon talked with former University of Toledo women's basketball star Kim Knuth-Klaer.  She played from 1995-99 (she married former Rockets kicker Ryan Klaer in April, 2000). Knuth-Klaer is still the program's all-time leading scorer with 2,509 points. Knuth-Klaer, who now lives with her husband and three children in St. Joseph, Mich., will become the first UT women's basketball player ever to have her jersey retired when she is honored during halftime of a Rockets home game on Feb. 24. High-scoring Kim Knuth also ranks first for Toledo in steals (368), fourth in assists (484) and eighth in rebounds (779). In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports writer Joe Vardon talked with former University of Toledo women's basketball star Kim Knuth-Klaer. She played from 1995-99 (she married former Rockets kicker Ryan Klaer in April, 2000). Knuth-Klaer is still the program's all-time leading scorer with 2,509 points. Knuth-Klaer, who now lives with her husband and three children in St. Joseph, Mich., will become the first UT women's basketball player ever to have her jersey retired when she is honored during halftime of a Rockets home game on Feb. 24.
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Coming from a small town in Michigan, Kim Knuth-Klaer didn't know how to think big.

She learned how to do that when she arrived at the University of Toledo in the fall of 1995.

In addition to being the program's all-time leading scorer, she also ranks first in steals (368), fourth in assists (484) and eighth in rebounds (779).

But what most people remember the 5-foot-11 shooting guard for is her ability to score.

Knuth-Klaer led the Rockets in scoring in each of her final three seasons, and averaged more than 20 points per game in all of those years. Behind her scoring prowess, UT was able to reach the NCAA tournament in her freshman, sophomore and senior campaigns.

Knuth-Klaer, 30, continues to pile up the personal accolades. The latest will come next month, when her No. 52 jersey becomes the first in UT women's history to hang from Savage Hall's rafters.

Previously a two-time Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, an honorable mention All-American selection, three-time first-team All-MAC performer, and Academic All-American, Knuth-Klaer was inducted into UT's Varsity "T" Hall of Fame two years ago.

She said she never dreamed any of this would come true during her days at St. Joseph High in St. Joseph, Mich., a place she described as a "small school" three hours from here.

"My main goal was really just to get in and play. I never really thought about any record whatsoever. It's such a privilege for me just to be able to see something like this come about, the whole retiring of the jersey. I never would've thought that would've happened.

"I started every game of my career. It takes a little luck. There was definitely a senior that was there that probably could've and should've started in front of me my freshman year. I'm grateful coach [Mark] Ehlen could see the potential in me at that time.

"I WAS A VERY fundamental player. I don't think that I had a lot of fancy moves or anything like that. I just constantly kept my feet moving, and I think a lot of my points were scored from rebounds, going after loose balls and trying to steal the ball after they [opponents] had gained possession of it. I definitely wanted the ball."

"After my senior year, I went to the WNBA combine and worked out there. I did talk to a couple of the teams, but really, at that time I was not wanting to go on and play. I really wanted to just settle down and get married, start a family right away, and start work.

"I THINK LOOKING BACK, I would've like to have really tried [to play in the WNBA]. The time I was coming out [of college] was when the other professional [women's] basketball league was folding, and all the other girls from that league were trying to get into the WNBA. I was competing not just with the girls coming out of college, but with a lot of girls from the other professional league as well. I think I would've liked to have tried it, but I don't think I would've been very successful at it."

"PROBABLY MY BEST memory was my freshmen year when we had to play Kent in the MAC tournament finals, and we had brought the wrong jerseys to the game. We had to literally have a police escort go back to Savage Hall and get the correct jerseys.

"It was almost a 30-minute delay for the game, and while we're waiting in the locker room all of the girls were doing the chicken dance. I think that those times when you are with your teammates and doing stuff like that are what I really loved and certainly miss at this point.

"WE DID (win the game). I remember coach Ehlen was furious at us because we were goofing around and trying to loosen up prior to the game. He thought that we were too loose at that point."

"We were last back [at UT] in February two years ago for my hall-of-fame induction. It was an honor to come back then, but this time I think the award is so much more humbling because everybody is making a big fuss over me. It's almost embarrassing in a way because all of this is just going on for me."

"RYAN AND I MET in high school. He was definitely a support person that I could turn to at any time, and did many times. With him going through the football thing [at UT], we could rely on each other a lot. We could understand how demanding sports are in college. You have to have those people in your life who can understand that because you have to rely on those people so much."

"Prior to getting pregnant last year, I was doing some refereeing. I was refereeing for JV and varsity girls, and I was getting into boys basketball, like 7th and 8th grade boys. I definitely wish I would've tried refereeing prior [to playing] because I think I would've been a lot kinder to the refs. It's not as easy as a lot of people think it is. I definitely would've been a lot smarter with the refs than what I was."

Contact Joe Vardon at jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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