Feb. 26, 2011
By Larry Watts
As a single mother for 24 years, Pam Moore certainly paid her dues. Now the former University of Wisconsin track standout is reaping the rewards.
Last year, Moore left her job at American Family Insurance in Madison, Wis., where she had worked 23 years as a health underwriter, senior claims adjuster and personalized underwriter. She now has more time to travel around the states.
“My son retired me last August,’’ she says proudly. “I’m now his business manager.’’
Her son is Wesley Matthews Jr., a former Marquette University standout who is averaging almost 16 points per game with the Portland Trail Blazers in the National Basketball Association. The Trail Blazers signed him last July after he averaged 9.4 points with the Utah Jazz while making 48 starts in his first season, one of the highest totals in NBA history for an undrafted rookie.
Matthews always gives credit to his mother for his basketball success. On his left bicep is a cursive tattoo that reads “Dynamic Duo’’ with a basketball and the initials “WM’’ and “PM.’’
The 5-foot-9 Moore was a pretty fair basketball player herself in her day. She claims to have scored 50 points and pulled down 50 rebounds in one game for Madison Memorial High School, where her son also played.
“Wesley wanted to see the proof, but it’s not really important for me to do the research,’’ she says. “For now, my word is good.
“In my area, there weren’t many girls who had the athleticism and jumping ability I had. There were a lot of missed shots, and I was a commander of the boards.’’
Moore also takes credit for a lot of those missed shots.
“It wasn’t uncommon for me to take three shots in one possession,’’ she says with a laugh. “I would get my own rebound each time and finally put it in. I wasn’t one bit shy about shooting, so I don’t know how Wesley got to be such an unselfish player.’’
Moore, who won state track titles in both the 200 and 400 meters in 1977, was offered basketball and track scholarships to attend Wisconsin. She accepted the basketball scholarship with the idea that she would join the track team for the outdoor season.
“I had had more individual success in track, but I didn’t get the overall accomplishment of wins and losses in basketball,’’ she says. “I didn’t want to sell myself short and find out I was missing something at the basketball level. I wanted to give it a chance in college to see if it would give me more gratification. I told the coach (Edwina Qualls) I wasn’t going to guarantee I would play all four years and may not even play after my first year.’’
Moore had one of the best first years in Badger history as her team went 14-10 and she was named the team’s Most Valuable Player. She still holds or shares six freshman records, including scoring (16.4) and rebounding average (9.1). She had a pair of 30-point games and grabbed 17 rebounds in another contest.
“I probably still hold the record for most shot attempts in one game,’’ she says with a laugh.
Actually, Moore does share the record with 27 shots in one outing, and also took 25 shots in three other games and 23 in another.
However, that was her only season on the hardwood. Missing the indoor track season cost her valuable training time for the outdoor season. Yet, when it came to the Big Ten Championships, she was the first quarter-miler to the finish line.
She added six more 400 titles to her belt over the next three seasons and finished with 11 titles overall, including relays.
“Success wasn’t new to me,’’ says Moore, who was a two-time All-American and three-time Most Valuable Runner for the Badgers. “It was great to help my team be successful. But as much as it is a team, it is very much an individual sport, other than the relays.’’
Her 1981 season marked both a high and low on the track. She won the national indoor title with a time of 53.88 in the 400-meter run and she won her seventh Big Ten 400 crown on the outdoor oval with a time of 53.01. Both times still stand as Badger records.
“I was very excited about the indoor title because I wasn’t at my best indoors,’’ she says. “Running on those boards are meant for women of shorter stature. I was taller and I liked to extend my stride, so that made me stronger for the outdoor season.’’
However, the 1981 season did not end the way Moore would have liked. Before departing from the Big Ten Championships, she anchored the 4x400 relay. In the midst of her lap Moore had to come to a stop with a pulled hamstring.
“I was the favorite for the NCAA 400 that year and didn’t get to run,’’ she says. “That final 400 was my eighth race of the day, so it was all fatigue. I was a workhorse for my team, sometimes running as many as four 400s in one day.’’
Moore did attend the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1980 and finished seventh in the 400, missing the cut for the Olympic team by one spot. However, the United States boycotted the Olympics that year.
“We already knew the Olympics were going to be boycotted, so many of the top athletes didn’t show up because their hearts weren’t in it,’’ she says.
Moore earned a bachelor’s degree in human resources and consumer sciences in 1981 and was faced with a decision. Should she continue the pursuit of her track career, hoping to land a berth on the 1984 Olympic team, or accept a job offer as an assistant buyer with Neiman Marcus in Dallas?
“I sat down with my coach to discuss it, and he thought I should keep training,’’ Moore says. “But I was no longer supported by my college, so how was I going to maintain a living while training for the next two years?
“I wound up taking the job offer. In hindsight, I should have found a way to keep training, and that says a lot about how I raised my son. There was never a time where I didn’t sacrifice anything to make sure he could be the best he could be. I had second thoughts, and I didn’t want him to have any doubts so I made sure he got the best exposure possible in both soccer and basketball.’’
Along the way, Moore did her best to teach her son many life lessons.
“There have been so many tidbits I have tried to install during our journey together,’’ says Moore, who was inducted into the Wisconsin Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Madison Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. “Mainly I wanted him to know he could be anything he wanted to be if he worked hard enough. Go hard all the time and never cheat yourself by looking for shortcuts in school and while playing. We learned by trial and error, but it was important to trust each other and be the best person you can be.’’