Teamwork important in health care and basketball for Jennifer
By Jim O’Brien From Pittsburgh Business Times
Jennifer Bruce Scott is proud to say she was always a good team player. This attribute served her well as one of the outstanding basketball players in the history of the University of Pittsburgh. It has served her well as a nurse the past 26 years at Allegheny General Hospital. She is the primary nurse for gastroenterologists Dr. Kofi Clark and Dr. Elie Aoun at the Allegheny Center for Digestive Health on Federal Street, just down East North Avenue from Allegheny General Hospital. She is responsible for scheduling tests and procedures and serves as a liaison between physician and patient. Her co-workers give her high marks for her competence and caring manner. There’s a positive glow about her attractive face, like the bright lights in those popular Thomas Kinkade paintings. She reflected on her dual careers in a third floor office at Federal North Medical Offices. “I’m proud of what I have accomplished, as a nurse in the health care field in Pittsburgh, and as a basketball player at Pitt,” she said. “And I still enjoy both.” There was no Women’s National Basketball Association during her student days at Pitt, so even though she gained Kodak All-America honors and set a school record by averaging 24.3 points during the 1984-85 season, she knew she was in school primarily to become a nurse.
She never considered going overseas to play pro basketball. “I went to Tennessee Tech for one year before I transferred to Pitt,” she recalled. “I got homesick. So I don’t think I would have fared well playing ball in, say, Turkey, if I got homesick in Tennessee.” She grew up in the best of homes, a supportive home, with parents and an older brother who looked after her and supported her efforts in school and on the basketball court. Her mother, Marguerite Bruce, was a physical education teacher in the Pittsburgh Public School system, at Gladstone High School, Taylor Allderdice High, Fifth Avenue High and Brashear High. Her father, Clarence, now deceased, was a clerical worker for U.S. Post Office for 40 years. He was a second baseman and teammate of “Cool Papa” Bell for the legendary Homestead Grays in 1947 and 1948, and both are depicted on a plaque at the Homestead Grays Bridge. “As a child, I’d go out in the backyard and play catch with my dad,” she recalled. “I was into swimming, basketball and softball. Swimming was actually my first love. “I went down to the park near my home and played basketball with the guys. My brother Kirk would go with me to make sure someone had my back. The guys weren’t thrilled to have me playing, at first, but after awhile I started getting picked ahead of some of the guys. That’s when you know you’ve made the grade.” A graduate of Carrick High School, she played at Pitt from 1981-1985. She scored a career total of 2,995 points (that total is in her cell phone number), grabbed 998 rebounds and blocked 203 shots. Only Lorri Johnson (1987-1991) of New Castle scored more points (2,312) in women’s basketball at Pitt. Both liked to boast that they scored more points than two All-America players in Pitt men’s basketball history, Don Hennon and Billy Knight. Pitt has retired the jerseys of Hennon and Knight, among others, but no jerseys have been retired for women’s basketball. That oversight needs to be corrected. As Jennifer Bruce, she is a
member of the Western Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame and a Varsity Letter-winner of Distinction at Pitt in recognition of her sports and nursing career successes. Her brother Kirk is an assistant athletic director for Olympic sports at Pitt, where he played for a fine basketball team in the mid- 70s, and coached the women’s basketball team for 13 years (1985- 1998). Her daughter Shayla was a starting guard and forward for four years at Pitt and is now an assistant basketball coach for the women’s team at LaSalle in Philadelphia. Her son Tyler is a freshman getting his academics in order to perform for the basketball team at Kent State. Jennifer is an assistant basketball coach for the girls’ team at Plum High School, and previously was the head coach at Gateway High School and Penn Hills High School. She has coached AAU teams through the years, currently the Pittsburgh Bruins. “Being a player is easier,” she says of her two experiences in basketball. “It’s tougher coaching, and I think part of it, for me, is that many players don’t have the same work ethic I did. But I can’t get away from the game. It allowed me to go to college for free.”
Pittsburgh sports author Jim O’Brien has a book out called “Immaculate Reflections,” the latest in his Pittsburgh Proud collection. His website is www.jimobriensportsauthor.com