Joan Van Ness attended Waterford High School and graduated in 1975. She didn’t play basketball in high school because there was no team or coach.
Van Ness went on to Southern Connecticut State College where she played basketball for four years -- one year for Coach Louise O’Neal, three for Coach Don Perelli, and also played softball for the Raybestos Brakettes and on the USA East and National Teams. She was the starting point guard at Southern all four years, a Third Team All-American (1976), Kodak Regional All-American (1978), and an Olympic Trials and World University Trials Finalist in 1976 and 1977. From 1978-1979, Van Ness received the Jack Lackman Trophy (Connecticut Scholar/Athlete), was a Wade Trophy Finalist (Best College Player), and was drafted by the New Jersey Gems in the Women’s Professional Basketball League. She played for the Gems until 1981.