The Ottumwa Courier

May 4, 2013

Pioneer to be honored in Moravia

By ANDY HEINTZ Courier sports writer
Ottumwa Courier

---- — OTTUMWA — Molly Bolin Kazmer has received her share of accolades during her storied basketball career.

Kazmer, known as Moravia Molly VanBenthuyzen to Moravians who watched her play and nicknamed “Machine Gun” Molly when she played professional ball, has been inducted into the Iowa High School Basketball Hall of Fame, the Grand View College Athletic Hall of Fame, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

But Kazmer, a native Canadian who moved to Moravia when she was in fifth grade, has never been honored by her high school — until now. On May 8, Moravia High School will honor Kazmer when it inducts her into the Moravia High School Wall of Fame at the high school gymnasium — the palette where she painted so many beautiful scenes on the basketball court.

Kazmer blazed a trail that today’s WNBA athletes would follow. She was the first woman to sign a professional women’s basketball contract to play in the new Women’s Basketball League; a task she performed in Iowa Gov. Robert Ray’s office in June 1978. She was invited to play in the 1978 U.S. Olympics but, because of a rule established by the Olympic Committee that barred pro athletes from the Olympics, she couldn’t compete. The rule was eventually scrapped in 1988.

Before she played professionall ball, Kazmer established an extremely impressive pedigree for herself at Moravia. Bolin’s career in Moravia is the story of a giant fish in a small pond. During a time when Iowa girls basketball still had a six-on-six scoring format, Bolin was dominant to the point of ridiculousness. She scored 70 points or more five times, posting a career-high 83 points in 1975. Kazmer ended her career with Mohawks averaging a Wilt Chamberlain-esque 54.8 points a game. Her glowing statistics got her selected second team all-state and first team all-conference on two occasions.

Kazmer went on to have a successful career Grand View College in Des Moines, where she averaged 22 points a game. After that, she took her talents to the brand new Women’s Basketball League — a predecessor to the WNBA that ran from 1978-1981 — where she played for the Iowa Cornets.

Kazmer became the league’s poster child and a bit of pioneer in sports marketing for women. Her brilliance on the basketball court coupled with her beautiful looks made her the perfect person for commercial and endorsement deals. She once did a Spalding commercial with the legendary Larry Bird, and the WBL, playing on her nickname, once had Kazmer photographed while holding a gun.

According to the WNBA’s official website, Kazmer averaged 16 points a game playing for the Iowa Cornets her rookie season and 32.8 points a game her second season. She shared the league MVP honors in 1979-80 and helped lead Cornets to two WBL finals’ appearances.

The first seeds to Kazmer’s brilliant career were sewn when a young Kazmer watched an especially exciting basketball game at Moravia School. Enthralled with what she had seen, she decided right then and there that she was going to be a basketball player.

Christina Bickel, business manager at Moravia High School, with Kazmer’s help, put together a book full of pictures and newspaper clippings that chronicles Kazmer’s career from fifth grade to her WBL days.

Three copies of the book will be available at the Moravia public library, the elementary school library and high school library and the fourth copy will go to Kazmer herself. The three copies available to the public will be autographed by Kazmer, Bickel said.

Rich Cummins, a collector who has a lot of memorabilia from when Kazmer played for the Cornets, will bring all his items for display at the Wall of Fame event. Plus, he’s offered to donate several of the items to be put in a glass case when the Mohawks build their new gym. Kazmer will be available for pictures and autographs at a “Meet and Greet” cake-punch gathering that will follow the assembly.