Venus Lacy rises to fame, suffers from depression, and finds a way for salvation

Lacy documents her story of basketball fame, mental illness, a weight gain, and faith to News 12

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – When Rhyne Howard won the WNBA Rookie of the Year Award three weeks ago, the Chattanooga area applauded, and for obvious reasons.

Howard was born and raised in the area, and her mother, RJ Avery, was a standout basketball player at Brainerd High School.

One of Avery’s teammates at Brainerd was a 6-4, powerful post player named Venus Lacy.

Little did Avery or anyone else know how Lacy’s rise to fame contributed to her downfall, and how she found her way back to salvation.

Lacy doesn’t know if anyone would remember her accomplishments, so she wanted to introduce herself to people this way: “Hi. My name is Venus Lacy. You may know me as one of the best post players in women’s college basketball history. My story is more than just about basketball. My story is more than about fame.”

Basketball led Lacy to national prominence. First in Chattanooga. Then, in Ruston, Louisiana at Louisiana Tech University. Later, the 1996 USA Women’s Dream Team and a gold medal.

About 18 months later, Lacy got into a car accident while playing for the Seattle Reign of the ABL. She left basketball for a couple years, then returned to the WNBA with the New York Liberty, but it was clear the sport was behind her, and her depression began.

“One minute, everything was great. The next minute, everything was bad. I just wanted to give up. I just wanted to take my life. I didn’t want to live. Why? You know? What have I done so wrong to deserve this?”

Things got so bad that Lacy swelled up to 400 pounds. She tried telling her friends and family she didn’t feel right, but mental illness then was something people needed to – quote – get over.

“I just wanted everybody to leave me alone. And, then you pick up weight. And you’re not eating. And you know something’s wrong with your body, but everybody else is telling you ‘Ain’t nothing wrong.’ So, now, you’re thinking you’re crazy.”

On top of that, Lacy had a child, Alex. As a result, a woman suffering from depression learned she added post-partum depression. She felt overwhelmed, with no one to turn to who understood.

“I didn’t know, at the time, when you have a baby, you have (post-partum depression)… you know? You go through it. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know anything about that. (My family) all went through it. They had kids before me.”

In 2009, Lacy’s mother – her best friend and self-described rock – passed away. A year later, Lacy stopped being friends with someone else she was close to due to what she called abuse.

A shift occurred. Through her faith, Lacy found herself again. Learned her self-worth. She also learned she still has a purpose on this Earth, and it may return to the place it all started: Brainerd High School.

“I want to motivate. I want to inspire young athletes. Young women. People. Children. Families. I believe in faith. I believe in God. I believe in myself. I’m stronger than what I thought I was. And my name is Venus Lacy.”

Lacy is in the process of writing her memoir.

She says none of what she writes is meant to hurt anyone.

Besides hoping Alex grows up to be successful, one thing Lacy wants is to reunite with her 1984 Brainerd High School champion teammates.

And to meet Candace Parker.

But, ultimately, teach kids the game of basketball can be used to learn life lessons.

Categories: Chattanooga, Featured, Hamilton County, Local News, Sports