Charles Nailen/The Hoya Bruce dribbles around a defender. She follows in a line of relatives that have participated in Big East basketball.

Some people are born into a world of politics, or academics, or luxury. Very few are born into the world of Big East women’s basketball. Then there is Carmen Bruce, who can rattle off an impressive pedigree that spans much of the 25 years that the Big East has played women’s basketball.

A sophomore who plays both guard and forward, Bruce made contributions to the team last year, but the Bruce family has had a much larger effect on the conference as a whole. From 1985 until 1998, Kirk Bruce, Carmen’s father, served as head coach of the University of Pittsburgh’s women’s basketball team. Her aunt, Jennifer Bruce Scott, played for Pittsburgh from 1981 to 1985 and is the school’s second-highest all-time scorer with 2,295 points. She was also a three-time all-conference player and the Big East Player of the Year for the 1983-84season. Kirk Bruce had an impressive run as a player at Pittsburgh from 1971 to 1975. During the 1973-74 season, the team went 25-4, was ranked in the top 10 in the polls and made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.

“Sports have been a major part of my family. I wouldn’t say that we were pushed into it; it’s a natural gravitation to basketball,” Carmen said. “When we were growing up, my sisters and I would watch my dad’s game, would watch him coach, getting close with his players at such a young age, it makes you want to be a part of it. It made me excited to grow up so I could play in the same setting that my father coached at.”

Kirk said he is happy that his daughters have taken such a keen interest in the sport and acknowledges the importance of being in such a basketball-saturated environment. He began his basketball career out of an interest in sports and as a result of his height, which made basketball the most attractive sport, especially after he discovered he was too tall to play baseball. He encouraged his daughters in the sport, but recognized it was their interest in it that guided them, not his.

From the beginning, basketball was a foundation of Carmen’s life. Going to practices and games for the Pittsburgh women’s basketball team helped familiarize her with the game, with the program and with the Fitzgerald Field House, the team’s home court. While Carmen had the chance to become intimately acquainted with women’s basketball at Pittsburgh, it also meant that her father would also constantly travel during the winter in order to attend away games, conduct recruitment visits and carry out all the other demands of collegiate level coaches.

“The games were the best part. When I was six or seven, I remember going to the games with my sisters and pretending that we were cheerleaders and sitting in the bleachers or sitting behind the bench. It was just so exciting,” Carmen said. “I remember we were in elementary school and my dad would have a night game and all throughout the school day would just be thinking `Pitt has a game, Pitt has a game. Daddy is about to coach.'”

By grade school, Carmen was actively involved on the court in her own, following in the footsteps of her father and aunt as well as her older sister Chelsea. Attending Schenley, a local high school, she distinguished herself early as a dynamic forward and was named the City League Player of the Year by her sophomore year, leading her team to the city championship. By her senior year, she had repeated as player of the year two more times, and was a Smith and Street All-American Honorable Mention and an Adidas Top 100 player. Add that to a distinguished record in shot put and discus, and Carmen had emerged as a solid choice for any college recruiter.

“The first chance I had to see Carmen was at a summer basketball camp after her freshman season, and even then you could see her talent,” Georgetown women’s basketball head coach Pat Knapp said.

While she could have stayed at Pitt, Carmen instead chose Georgetown, another conference team. Her family’s long-time friendship with Knapp certainly made the choice easier and the transition away from the Pittsburgh program that Carmen knew so well a little smoother.

“I always wanted to play for my dad and I thought that would have been the greatest thing. My dad was the assistant coach when my aunt played and I thought that it was the best thing to go to Pitt because they went to Pitt, my mom went to Pitt. We just thought that Pitt was it,” Carmen said. “Things changed, though, and my dad had left and I had developed a really good relationship with Coach Knapp and the staff here at Georgetown. My dad adores them and we just love the school, so it was an easy decision. If my dad was still at Pitt, I guess it would be a lot different.”

Knapp added that the addition of Carmen to the team was very welcome and appreciates the accomplishments of Kirk Bruce as both father and coach.

“Although we competed against each other strongly, our families have grown close. I only have high praise for the quality of people Kirk and his family are,” he said.

In her first year at Georgetown, Carmen made an impression on the court. She started in 28 of 29 games last season and was third on the team in scoring with 8.2 points per game along with 3.9 rebounds per game. She has shown versatility, playing both as a guard and as a forward, and has the ability to find the basket from a distance and play inside as well. Things have not always been easy, though, playing in a conference as demanding as the Big East.

“Playing in the Big East put things in perspective about how hard you have to work everyday. You cannot slack off in practice or in a game. It’s difficult to make the transition from high school,” she said.

To Carmen, however, the most enjoyable part of the game takes place off the court when she’s bonding with her teammates.

“I love my teammates. A lot of people say you should branch off and I have a lot of friends outside, but they’re my family here and I just adore everyone. I love the relationships I have with the girls.”

Kirk Bruce has intently watched Carmen progress in the past few years in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. He now works as the assistant athletic director for Olympic sports at the University of Pittsburgh. Despite having a strong influence on her development in basketball, he chooses to focus on everything that Carmen has accomplished.

“I’m proud that she has put in all the work necessary to be where she is now. She earned it; she trained all her life and made the sacrifices,” he said.

On top of this, Kirk respects Carmen’s devotion to her teammates and her desire to help out the team in whatever capacity she can fill.

“I think that she is most proud to accept whatever role she is given on the team and would not want to be judged based on the accolades she may receive. She always plays within herself and tries to help her teammates.”

His daughter, for her part, admires the elder Bruce for his ability to form positive relationships with everyone and communicate with others. Walking down the street in their hometown, she noted, everyone seemed to know her father and want to say hello.

Carmen hopes to stay involved in sports through sports administration. While she does not like all the travel involved in coaching, she wants sports to continue to be a part of her life. That so many people in her family have made women’s basketball central to their lives and have been successful only bolsters Carmen’s confidence.

“It’s nice to know that those people are in my family. I don’t take it as pressure, I take it as a realization that they are a part of my family and I’m lucky enough to be mentioned with them,” she said.

As for the next generation of Bruces, Carmen hopes that they too may take an interest, although she is not shy about wanting her children to follow the family legacy onto the court.

“I think that would have to be part of the package. I would respect it if they wanted to play other sports, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t want them to play basketball. If they don’t, I might have to nudge them a little bit. But I don’t think that it will be a problem.”

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