Basketball and Beyond: A Record Holder’s Story

In 1984, Tina Hutchinson set the NCAA Division I Freshman record of 898 points scored. This record stood for 40 years and is a testament to her athletic achievement in the world of women’s basketball.

Did you know this 40-year basketball record holder was an AMERICAN Steel Pipe veteran?

After shooting hoops across the nation in college and throughout Europe as a professional, Tina Hutchinson heard great things about the company while studying computer science at San Diego State University. She discovered her next golden opportunity was waiting for her back home in Birmingham, Alabama, at AMERICAN.

“I want my story to help the next generations understand there are opportunities out there to be excellent, to know you can achieve something regardless of the cards you’ve been dealt.”

– Tina Hutchinson, AMERICAN Steel Pipe retiree

“Playing basketball opened many doors for me throughout my career,” Hutchinson said. “I want my story to help the next generations understand there are opportunities out there to be excellent, to know you can achieve something regardless of the cards you’ve been dealt.”

Her Upbringing
Basketball found its way into Hutchinson’s heart during summers spent at her grandmother’s house in Birmingham. It was in her grandmother’s backyard where she learned the rules of the game from her uncle and his friends. Nearby Hutchinson’s home, her grandmother, Ila May Hamilton Lee, had a basketball hoop on her garage, and this space became the after-school stomping grounds for Hutchinson and the neighboring boys. Hutchinson credited her resilient fighting spirit to the countless matches with the boys.

“They [the boys] would get mad at each other, claiming they were taking it easy on me just because I was a girl,” said Hutchinson, who would later be named the number one women’s basketball player in the nation by Parade Magazine All American and USA Today in 1983. “Playing with my uncle and the guys inspired me to toughen up and improve my basketball skills.”

Among Hutchinson’s accolades, two of her most notable were being selected first-team All-American at the Western Collegiate Athletic Association, a West Coast conference in which teams competed in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, in 1984; and her NCAA Division I Freshman record of 898 total points. This record stood for four decades until it was broken by JuJu Watkins in April 2024. Hutchinson’s next stop in her basketball career was overseas, where she played in Italy, Switzerland and more.

Though her uncle taught her the ropes, Hutchinson says her role model was her mother, Mary, whose words of encouragement empowered her to achieve her dreams. “My mother worked very hard and raised me with my grandmother’s help, and I’m proud to call Mary Hutchinson my mother,” she said. “Together, they instilled in me morals, values and standards that have served me well in my basketball career, at AMERICAN and beyond.”

Working at AMERICAN
After playing basketball for several years, two knee injuries eventually led to Hutchinson choosing a different path. Her aspirations of finding a position that could afford her the life she desired would bring her to AMERICAN in 1999, where she began in Ductile Iron Pipe and later bid into AMERICAN Steel Pipe’s Inspection Department. The experience with the company proved to be a valuable one, Hutchinson said, as it changed her perspective on the value of everyday products and services some take for granted.

“ACIPCO was a major part of my story, my life, for 17 years,” Hutchinson said. “When I arrived at the Inspection Department, I didn’t know just how crucial inspection is in the process of creating the high-quality products we take for granted every day. I quickly learned that when we made great pipe consistently, we got good bonuses.”

In pursuing excellence on the basketball court for many years, Hutchinson demonstrated the discipline required to be one of the best players of her time. This discipline helped Hutchinson overcome obstacles she and her teams faced as well as ones faced by her co-workers at AMERICAN.

“Work at ACIPCO is all about being disciplined,” Hutchinson said. “ACIPCO and basketball — being disciplined and knowing when to encourage others — is what it’s all about. Sometimes you need to pull each other up. Regardless of where you are, if you do your job and your co-workers do their jobs, things will go smoothly. To win the game and make the best products, everyone must do their part — the right way.”

Finding Success
On the court and in life, Hutchinson said she was always able to find mentors, who saw her potential and helped her harness her talent and skills to make way for new opportunities.

“In times when I’ve felt lost in life, God has never failed me,” Hutchinson noted. “He has always shown me the way to make my dreams a reality. Whether it was through the advice of my coaches in basketball, mentors at AMERICAN or in the community, I have always found a way to succeed.”

Hutchinson’s advice applies regardless of one’s path. “Never let someone tell you that you will not be able to achieve your goals,” she said. “Wherever you are in life, always remember you are one person away from finding your next breakthrough — the way to your dreams.”