Elissa “The Big Smile” Cunane will have her high school basketball number retired at the Halftime of the Northern Guilford-Smith football game, Friday night at Johnny Roscoe Stadium(Northern Guilford HS)

I bet her smile will be maybe a mile wide on Friday night, as former Northern Guilford Nighthawk girls basketball player, Elissa Cunane, has her basketball jersey number retired, during halftime ceremonies of the Smith at Northern Guilford high school football game…This will all take place inside the Johnny Roscoe Stadium, at Northern Guilford High School, where Brian Thomas is the athletic director, and Kim Furlough is the girls head basketball coach, and she has been, since the school opened…

“The Big Smile”, her nickname at N.C. State, where she starred for Coach Wes Moore, and the Wolfpack, yes Elissa “The Big Smile” Cunane wore #32 back in high school when she was playing and dominating the post for the Nighthawks, and the #32 will be officially retired on Friday evening during the halftime of the Smith-NG Nighthawks football game…

As far as play goes in the post, she might just be the best female player to ever work in the paint/post in the history of Guilford County girls basketball…She had some excellent coaches and teachers in Coach Kim Furlough and former Northern Guilford girls assistant basketball coach, Haley Hackett Black…They trained her well, and then the “Cunane Train” took off, and accelerated as she headed down the track, and she really picked up even more steam, when she landed with the Pack/N.C. State Wolfpack….

Elissa Cunane, a name synonymous with outstanding girls and womens basketball, in Guilford County and beyond, and now she will get her just dessert on Friday night, at Northern Guilford High School…A cherry on top of great career and her mom and dad, Sharon and Dan Cunane, have so much to proud of, as this young lady reached for the stars, and in the process, she became one herself…A star that will be shining bright, on Friday night, out on Spencer Dixon Road, and a star who will go far, since her time to shine, has only just begun….

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GREENSBORO — If Northern Guilford High School is going to retire an athlete’s jersey, that athlete has to be special. The only Nighthawk to have that honor is former football standout Keenan Allen, who has gone on to an outstanding career in the NFL.

On Friday night, Allen will have company, and that athlete is pretty special, too.

During halftime of Northern’s football game against Smith, Elissa Cunane’s No. 32 women’s basketball jersey will be retired before she heads to the Czech Republic three days later to play professionally.

Cunane, a 6-foot-5 post player, finished her Nighthawks career with 2,081 points and 1,459 rebounds, both school records. She also blocked 426 shots.

Cunane was named the NCHSAA Class 3-A championship game MVP as a junior and was named the Nighthawks’ most outstanding player in the title game as a senior after leading Northern to its only two state championships. The Nighthawks went 105-19 during her career, with most of the losses coming when she was sidelined by injuries.

“Any coach would be fortunate to coach a player like Elissa,” says Kim Furlough, Northern’s coach. “She’s so loyal, worked hard every single day, was a great teammate and never cared about all the awards. She just wanted her team to win.”

A three-time HSXtra.com Player of the Year and three-time conference player of the year and academic all-conference selection, Cunane was named the state’s player of the year by the N.C. Basketball Coaches’ Association as a senior.

“She was an absolute joy to coach,” Furlough says.

The Summerfield native went on to play at N.C. State, where she was a three-time All-American, three-time All-ACC player and a two-time ACC Tournament MVP during her four-year career. Cunane averaged 14.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game for the Wolfpack, which went 110-17 during her career and reached at least the third round of the NCAA Tournament each year it was played.

After being selected in the second round of the WNBA draft (No. 17 overall), Cunane failed to make the Seattle Storm’s roster, but she played professionally in Mexico and had a three-game stint with the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx in June.

As impressive as Cunane’s high school and college resume are, they don’t tell the whole story.

“People enjoyed watching her, being around her,” Furlough says. “They tagged her with the nickname ‘Big Smile’ and that’s her. She loves the game and was always generous to people who wanted an autograph or a photo.”

Later this year, Cunane will be signing autographs in the Czech Republic, where she will play for the Zabiny Brno club. But she’ll always be remembered as a Nighthawk.

“She put Northern Guilford on the map for sure,” Furlough says. “So many people followed her at Northern and then went on and followed her at N.C. State. I can’t tell you how many people stop me at school, in the grocery store or wherever and they want to talk about Elissa.”