Shena Cooper Layn was a part of the Flying Queen Basketball program from 1974-1979. She played on and coached the Queen Bees, and she was a manager for and then assistant coach of the Queens.
Shena grew up on a farm and ranch in Walters, Oklahoma – five hours away from Plainview, Texas. She was the eldest of four girls born to Elroy and Shirley Cooper, and she spent her summers harvesting wheat and driving grain trucks in the family custom harvesting business (“Elroy Cooper and Daughters”). There was no basketball program for girls in her high school until her seventh-grade year, and hers was the first team to play basketball through their senior year. She received the last uniform handed out that first year, and the number was “00,” but she started, even then, and remained a starter, and a standout, throughout her high school years. Her mother taught her to set her goals high, and one of her goals became to play for the legendary Flying Queens. Her high school coach was a man named “Cotton” Davis, and he took their team to the finals of the Oklahoma Area Basketball Tournament. Shena was named Honorable Mention All-State in an era when selections were made for all the players in the state, without separation by class.
Shena drew the attention of many coaches throughout Oklahoma, but her coach took her and two other senior starters on her team for tryouts at Wayland. Shena was 5 foot 3 inches and her teammates were 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet 4 inches tall. Shena was the only one offered a scholarship. Her parents followed her in her red and white striped Volkswagen Beetle when she moved to Plainview in the fall 1974. On the way, they stopped in Crowell, Texas, to meet her roommate, and teammate, Cheryl Branch. Cheryl stepped outside her house to meet Shena, and, upon seeing how short she was, said, “You play basketball?”
Shena was not easily intimidated. She quickly made friends with other freshmen like Leanne Waddell, Breena Caldwell, Tina Slinker, and Marie Kocurek. (Marie even went on the wheat harvest with the Cooper family one summer!) Shena soon learned to take along a “barf bag” on the airplane trips to games, as she easily succumbed to motion sickness! She also became close to Claude and Wilda Hutcherson, the long-time patrons who flew the Flying Queens to their games. Other than basketball, Shena served on the Student Foundation, was in Omega Phi Alpha, and competed for four years in the Miss Wayland pageant where she showcased her ability to sing and play the piano. She received her degree in education in 1978 and graduated summa cum laude. Her father spent every fall harvesting corn in a town just north of Plainview called Edmonson, and he enjoyed watching many of the Queen’s games – especially the annual Thanksgiving tournament that brought in teams from around the country.
In the fall 1976, her junior year at Wayland, Coach Dean Weese asked Shena to be his assistant coach – a role she enjoyed immensely. Her senior year was the year that the Queens went to the 1978 AIAW Final Four in Los Angeles, California at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus. It was an exciting time, as fans traveled by bus to cheer for the Queens, and the event was televised. Just a few months later at the end of May, the team was selected to travel on a mission trip to Hong Kong, and they stopped in Hawaii. After her senior season, Shena continued to be the assistant coach to Dean Weese at Wayland, where she coached the Queen Bees while she pursued a graduate degree at West Texas State University just up the road in Canyon, Texas. During one trip to play in Oklahoma, Shena took all the Bees to stay at her house in Walters to save money. After 1978-79 school year, Coach Weese was recruited to be the head coach for the Dallas Diamonds, a new team in the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WPBL), and he asked Shena to be a player/coach there.
Shena was recruited by some colleges to coach their teams but, at the end of her year in Dallas, she decided it was time to return to Oklahoma to fulfill other dreams. One of those dreams was to coach high school teams in her home state, where they still played six-on-six basketball. She became a beloved coach and English teacher in four different cities over a 28-year time span. In addition to basketball, she also coached softball and cross-country. She was selected as an All-State Coach twice. Wayland teammates might be surprised to know that while coaching, she also found time to participate in a pageant, where she became Miss Altus, and participated in the Miss Oklahoma Pageant.
She married Joe Layn on June 18, 1983, and the two of them had four children, Zach, Shiloh, Shelby Jo, and Shayln. They also have one granddaughter, Stella Jo. Together they attended many of the NCAA Women’s Final Four Championships, where she was asked to speak to coaches at some of the events surrounding the tournament. Two of her daughters, Shelby Jo and Shalyn, played college basketball while daughter Shiloh ran track in college. Shena lost her father, a devout basketball fan of her teams throughout her life, in 2006. Shena went to be with her Heavenly Father in 2010, after a brave and lengthy eight-year battle with cancer. Her husband Joe passed in 2016.
Over the years, Shena kept up with friends from Wayland, and was even invited by long-time Wayland supporter Joe Province to return for a homecoming of sorts many years later to be honored as a former Queen. Those who knew her well remember that she was a great encourager and motivator, and she lived by many inspirational thoughts. One of those was to “treat others as you would like to be treated,” and that is probably what she would say to current players. Wayland was a wonderful place where Shena lived, and laughed, and loved so much. In many ways, it set the course for a wonderful life.
Editor’s note: The HFQF would like to thank Shena’s mother, Shirley Cooper for providing the information for Shena’s story and Leanne Waddell South for writing it.