If you take a trip up interstate-69 headed northwest from Indianapolis, past the glacial cut rivers of Fort Wayne and through the rolling hills just outside the Capitol region of Michigan, you will find yourself in the cozy town of East Lansing, population 48,844.
This town raised IUPUI’s assistant women’s basketball coach Victoria Lipscomb. East Lansing began a journey that all Jaguars share in today as the women’s basketball team accelerates toward destiny in the 2019 Horizon League playoffs. Lipscomb was merely following in the footsteps of her older brother Nicholas, who would use his spare time away from basketball practice and other sports to watch the Rasheed Wallace version of the North Carolina Tar heels basketball team and meticulously critique the games alongside his father. Lipscomb would begin to play Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball donning the jersey number 30, just like her brother, to get in on the family bonding activities.
“The most influential coach in my life was Coach Piper, my grandfather’s friend,” says Lipscomb, “He coached me in basketball between third and sixth grade. He had a lot of good life lessons and wouldn’t let you skate by; one day I skipped practice and he called my parents to tell them that I didn’t come. I was grounded for a week, then I went to practice next day and had to run. I was mad. He sat down with me and told me that he was the one that called my parents, and that I had made a commitment that I failed to keep. Then, it clicked.”
Victoria Lipscomb went on to become an accomplished athlete at East Lansing High school, not only in basketball but track and field as well. In the 2008 Michigan State Championship for track and field, Lipscomb took home a silver medal in the 200 meter sprint running a personal best 25.65 seconds, a gold medal in the 4×200 meter relay, and posted 4th place in the women’s long jump to help the East Lansing Spartans secure the overall team championship with only eight people on the entire squad.
“By far, my most memorable moment in sports was winning the state championship for track my senior year of high school” says Lipscomb.
That determination for success led Lipscomb back to the cusp of success, this time on the basketball court. On Mar. 7, 2008, the East Lansing Trojans faced the Saginaw Arthur Hill Lumberjacks in Michigan’s Class A state semi-finals. There are only two seconds left on the clock, East Lansing is down by one point, and Lipscomb just made the decision to go for the game winning shot.
The only one standing between her 5-foot-6 frame and a trip to the championship is a longtime friend and former AAU teammate, a 6-foot-2 Juanita Cochran. Lipscomb attempts to drive to basket and Cochran seems to cleanly knock the ball from out of her hands behind her… the whistle blows. Lipscomb heads to the free-throw line, “I didn’t think it was a foul”, says Lipscomb.
She takes five dribbles and attempts a shot the rattles inside the rim for a moment. When the ball finally dropped and the score was tied, the spectators erupted into pandemonium. The Lumberjacks call timeout. “My hands were super sweaty and clammy, and my heart was racing,” Lipscomb recalls.
Her teammates gathered around her during the timeout and escorted her to the bench in arms. After the timeout Lipscomb, heads to the charity stripe again. She takes five dribbles, and attempts the shot. She nailed it, sending her Trojans to the state finals. East Lansing didn’t win the championship that year, but the team the year after Lipscomb went off to college did.
Almost 11 years later; Victoria is an assistant basketball coach for the IUPUI women’s basketball team in the hunt for a championship under head coach Austin Parkinson. Lipscomb is just two years removed from accomplishing two master’s degrees at Michigan State University and Oakland University, both within one week of each other, while simultaneously performing as a graduate assistant for the Michigan State’s women’s basketball team.
Lipscomb spends her days now with her head buried in the playbook, going over scouting materials. At an early age, Lipscomb lost all of her grandparents within a span of five years. It was thanks to people like Coach Bibbs, her track coach in high school, who would light up the room with cheer every time he saw Victoria which helped fill in the gaps in her decision to become a coach.
“I battled with the idea quite a bit”, said Lipscomb, “but I think around my junior or senior year in college, after my coach, (Jeff Tungate, current head coach of Oakland University), approached me a number of times about the matter, and talking with my brother, I was convinced to explore coaching.”
With the losses she endured early in life, Lipscomb is sure to keep family close. Victoria’s older brother, Nicholas, comes into town often from the west coast and is here once again to wish her off for good luck against Oakland the next day. Nicholas talks feverishly about how supportive Victoria has always been, especially in influencing him to move far away from family with his fiancée, and not fearing the unknown; although Victoria herself had deep concerns about him being away from those who would be there to support him most in times of need.
“I believe not only did she learn confidence from me,” says Nicholas, “but she superseded me in sharing proponents of holding relationships dear, and understanding success comes with helping others succeed. This is what we learned from our parents and grandparents.”
Nicholas is most proud of Victoria’s ability to always navigate obstacles in her life stating: “She always formulates a plan to conquer obstacles and is great at giving honest feedback.”
Lipscomb wakes up every day thankful for the opportunity and purpose of continuing to make her family proud.
“I was my brother’s shadow, Lipscomb said. “My role model was my mom, and as much as we may argue and fight, she set a good representation of not only what it means to be a woman, but a strong black woman working her way from essentially having nothing, to creating a household with strong family values.”
Unlike her high school track days, Lipscomb has far more than eight people on her team and in her village today. She shares an office with fellow assistant and former IUPUI basketball standout DeAirra Goss. However, the two share much deeper friendship that pits them as long lost sisters.
“I know that I appreciate her as a friend,” Goss says. “What other friend would go out of their way to run errands for you, setup family gatherings for you, or help you clean your apartment to maintain a happy healthy family life, all while helping me learn the ins-and-outs of this job with its demanding time constraints. My family loves her. It’s nice for her family to know that she has family here in Indianapolis, although she’s only been here three years.”
Ever thankful for the opportunities that she has been granted thus far, Lipscomb thanks her upbringing for positioning her to be her best. She doesn’t rule out a return to her alma mater, and current Horizon League rival, Oakland because of the experiences she had there.
“When I look at everything, thinking back to 2009, a lot of the decisions I made then, and even now, were based off of the people that I meet and the interactions,” Lipscomb said. “Although Oakland is not necessarily a destination I would say I want to coach, it was by far the best fit for me in terms of school, the people that I met, the location, the education, and the opportunities that I got out of going there.”
Whether it be IUPUI, Oakland, or whatever opportunity comes her way, Victoria Lipscomb is prepared. She has been exposed to some intelligent advice in her lifetime, but perhaps none greater than this addage passed down from her parents.
“Be proud of who you are and walk everywhere with a purpose, dignity, and worth. Never let anyone else define what your self-worth is, because you are worth more than you think you are.”