I’m Kathy Grissom Basinger and I played on the Queen Bees and the Flying Queens from 1977 to 1981.
I grew up in Taiban, New Mexico on a ranch located just 15 miles from Fort Sumner where I attended school. Growing up on a ranch takes a whole family working together because there are many jobs to get done before and after school. My siblings and I started doing chores at age 3. It took two of us to carry a five-gallon bucket of feed. My dad would say, “You girls are just too short in the britches, work as a team.” I think one of the biggest tasks we did as a family was when my dad bought 150 baby calves—that is right, no mommies! Quite a challenge to mix the milk and to bottle feed all those babies. Not to mention there were also other chores that had be done. This took team work and it started at 5:00 a.m. The school bus picked us up at 7:45 and you were in big trouble if you missed that bus! Some of my favorite memories are of our family’s big breakfasts of biscuits, gravy, and bacon.
Then there were branding days. We were up at 3 a.m., saddled our horses, loaded up and travelled to neighbors who were 30 to 40 miles away! There’s nothing like being at the backside of a pasture on your horse waiting for the sun to come up so you can see the cows and calves.
Growing up it took the whole family working together to make ends meet. My mom was one of the best seamstresses in the area. It was a blessing for me because my legs were so long, I never had jeans long enough and high-water jeans were not cool. My sister was a cheerleader and my mother made all of their uniforms. You name it and my mom could make it.
My dad was a superior horseman; he taught all of us kids how to ride the right way. You don’t just put a bridle and saddle on a horse and go yeehaw. You learn how to ride that horse with your legs and by shifting your weight in the saddle. Now as for me, I was the wild child. I’m lucky to still be here after some of my childhood horse riding experiences. One time I was chasing my cousin, who was on a bike. I was on my horse and when my cousin cut through the tree rows, I tried to stop the horse. Instead of stopping, the horse flipped over backwards and landed on me. I got out of that incident with a broken collarbone and a few cuts and bruises.
After recovery, I decided to go have some more fun. My plan was to rope a post, ride off, and pull it out of the ground. Well, I didn’t get the post roped, so I walked up and put the rope on the post. The rope ended up under the horse’s flank and over my leg. When that rope got tight everything went wrong. Thank goodness luck was on my side, no major breaks or cuts!
My big brother, Dwain, always enjoyed working with horses, farming, and ranching. After high school my brother went to college for one semester, then he told my parents that college was interfering with his education. Dwain quit college and went to work training race horses. We will never know if he made the right decision, but he has been very successful in his career. Dwain now runs a big Thoroughbred training center, farm, and ranch close to Yarnell, Arizona. He loves what he does and is good at his job!
My big sister, Peggy, was the girly girl but that did not stop her from being my partner in crime. No, I can’t tell you those stories!! She was a cheerleader, ran track, played basketball, and enjoyed rodeoing. Peggy was Miss New Mexico high school rodeo queen and 4th runner up at the national finals. She now sells real estate in Midland and enjoys her three kids and grandbabies.
Our mother, Janean, who is 85, and our dad, C.W., who is 89, still live on the ranch. We couldn’t drag them away! Again, we are a team and all work together so they can remain living where they want to live.
I knew at a very young age I wanted to play basketball in college and then be a coach. My first basketball court was in our barn on a dirt floor. Talk about an uneven surface; my court was where my dad would bathe his horses. We lived 15 miles from Fort Sumner, and back then we didn’t have open gym. So, the barn was my place to practice. Our family had many basketball games in that barn. Lucio, a young man my parents helped raise, was a fabulous basketball player and he taught me a lot. As I got better and proved I was serious about basketball we got a cement slab outside by the house. It was so much easier to control that ball!
My parents let me go to basketball camps in order to help me get better, but I knew it was hard on them because we didn’t have much money. Mom and dad knew that basketball and coaching were going to be my life, so they wanted to help me follow my dream. The main camps attended were the Flying Queens’ camp and Eastern New Mexico camp. I knew after attending the Flying Queens’ camp that my goal was to play for the Queens. The Eastern camp helped me because Coach Marsha Sharp was one of coaches and she was a part of Wayland. I honestly think God puts people in your life for a reason. Talking with Coach Sharp and her telling me about Wayland and the Flying Queens’ tradition was just unbelievable. Also, my mom would take me to the Queens’ Classic during Thanksgiving. Now there was some great basketball being played at that time in both the college and high school divisions. That was when I started believing Wayland was where I would go to college.
So, at that time, this young, little girl in junior high school started trying to make her dream come true. Because of Coach Willis and Coach Roybal and many good teammates, my junior high and high school years were very successful. During my time in junior high, the 7th, 8th, and 9th graders played on the same team. During those years, our team didn’t lose a game. The first game our team lost was for the State Championship our sophomore year. Our senior year we won the New Mexico State title!
I also participated in track. I was on the varsity track team as an 8th grader. Throughout my high school years in track, I went to State in the hurdles and got second, I won State in the high jump, and our relay team placed second in the 440-yard relay and third in the mile relay.
Basketball and track were my passion, but I also rode horses and rodeoed. I was a breakaway calf roper and ribbon runner. Wish I still had all that energy!
I received scholarship offers from all the major colleges in New Mexico, but that was not where I wanted to go. I still had the dream of going to Wayland and playing for the Hutcherson Flying Queens. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a scholarship offer and I knew my parents could not afford to send me to Wayland. So, with my head hung low and crying, I signed a full scholarship to play at Las Cruces, New Mexico. I was one unhappy young lady because I knew I was not going to be able to reach my Wayland goal and would not be a Hutcherson Flying Queen. As the summer went on my parents told me they would make the sacrifice and send me to Wayland if that was what I wanted. I knew it was going to be a big burden on them. They told me I needed to go, and try and see if I could make my dream come true.
So off I went to Wayland, as a walk on, to see if I could make a team. I knew my work was cut out for me because those Texas/Oklahoma girls were tough. So many of them had scholarships and I didn’t. Tina Slinker was the only player from New Mexico who was on the Queens at that time. She took me under her wing and taught me many things that would help me down the road. Thank you, Tina!
Going to Wayland was the best decision I ever made! I played on the Queen Bees my first year which was the best team for me at that time. I was one of the lucky ones who got to play for Shena Cooper. Coach Cooper taught me so much my freshman year and got me on the right path to be a Hutcherson Flying Queen.
I played on the Queen Bees and the Flying Queens my sophomore year. Coach Weese called me into his office—I was scared. He gave me a scholarship to pick up what my grant wouldn’t pay. Boy, did that ever help with the finances. I owe so much to Coach Weese and by the end of my sophomore year I got a full scholarship. Here I was crying again because I knew my dream was finally coming true. I was a Hutcherson Flying Queen. All my hard work, determination and my perseverance paid off again.
But a sad thing happened. Coach Weese left to coach a professional women’s basketball team. However, Wayland hired another great coach, Cathy Wilson. She stepped right in and never missed a beat. I was still on the Flying Queens’ team but there were many girls better than I. However, there I was on the bench being a part of something a lot bigger than just me! You know, if you have a commitment and a little help, dreams can come true. Walking on at Wayland surrounded me with great coaches, teammates, professors and friends who helped me fulfill my dreams and become who I am today.
In college you have many ups and downs. My first year at college was tough. Scheduling classes and finding my way to the classes was confusing—that campus was big to this country girl. Also, I was not an “A” student, so I had to study hard! At practice, I was so nervous and intimidated—those Queens were good!
Then there were the two weeks of initiation. I was home sick, in a strange place, and with new friends. Beanies were put on our heads and we had to wear them everywhere in order to show we were freshmen. The Flying Queens’ initiation was very scary, but good for us. It forced us to get to know our teammates who would soon become our friends. That initiation sure made the freshmen learned how to stick together. We became a family. We would go back to the freshman dorm (Fleming Mays), go to one of our rooms, and discuss what the Queens made us do that day.
Then on top of all that, there were five Kathies on the team. So, we Kathies just started calling each other by our last names. At Wayland, and still to this day, I am sometimes called “Grissom.” I think it’s cool because it reminds me of special bond between us Kathies.
I would not trade my four years at Wayland for anything. Getting to know my fellow teammates and flying in private airplanes everywhere we went was fantastic. I had never flown before so the first time I was really scared, but the Hutcherson’s pilots were great and made it an enjoyable experience. The places where we got to play were unbelievable. Many people would come see us play because Wayland was one of the best women’s programs in the country. Fans would even come watch us warm up because our warm up included personal tricks and ball handling skills. I was blessed to be coached by some of the best coaches and play with some of the best players of that time.
My college career opened the doors to the rest of my career and much of my success can be attributed to the Wayland Flying Queens’ family. My first job was in Lockney, Texas, with Head Coach Sherry Haynes, a former Flying Queen. She taught me so much about the process of coaching, work out schedules, and dealing with players, parents, and administrators. I had two fantastic years at Lockney.
Summer league softball took me to Lubbock where I ran into Coach Marsha Sharp. I just mentioned to her that I really liked Lubbock and the next thing I knew Coach Tim Tasker from Monterey High School was calling me. I became his assistant! Here this small-town girl with 32 people in her own graduation class was going to coach at a 5A high school. To tell the truth, I didn’t know where Lubbock’s Monterey High was located or who Tim Tasker was. I learned quickly that Monterey High and Tim Tasker had a lot of rich traditions. We made the playoffs many times and I got to help Coach Tasker coach in two state tournaments!
It was a great honor to be a part of helping two Monterey girls fulfill their dreams. Janice Farris Legan and Diana Kersey both attended Texas Tech and played for the Lady Raiders and Coach Marsha Sharp. One day Janice asked if I would be part of her family for a weekend. Well, little did I know that Janice was asking me to go watch her and Diana play for the Texas Tech Lady Raiders in the NCAA Final Four Women’s Basketball Championship! Janice had for me an airplane ticket with the team, a motel room, and game tickets. It was an unbelievable honor for me to be a part of the Texas Tech Lady Raiders and Coach Sharp winning a NCAA National Championship. Also, watching Janice and Diana play was so rewarding!
Then a midlife crisis hit! I decided I did not want to coach any more. It took too much time and I wanted to spend more time with my family. So, I went back to school and got certified to teach elementary physical education. I did that for one year and then knew I wanted back into coaching! I was blessed once again when Head Coach Chris Kennedy, a former Flying Queen, ask me to join her coaching staff in Slaton, Texas. Coach Staci Denton, also a former Queen, was already on the staff and I knew the Slaton Tigerettes were a power house. It was an honor to run the junior high program. My sixteen years as a Tigerette were filled with many great memories. We were district champs, made playoffs, regional tournaments, and again I was honored to be a part of the coaching staff at the state basketball tournament.
I also had the pleasure of coaching in Muleshoe, Texas, for five years with Jim Gruhlkey. We made the playoffs and just missed making it to state a couple of times. I ended my 34 years of coaching in Post, Texas, where Coach Shelli Crow honored me by asking me to be a part of her coaching staff. It is hard to name the many people that helped me throughout my coaching/teaching career, but I would like to say a big “Thank You” to the many I didn’t get to name.
My husband, John T. Basinger, is a real estate broker in Slaton. We don’t have children, but we both have nieces, nephews and even great nieces and great nephews. Our children all had four legs—Pepper, Precious, Baron and now Yoda—our four good dogs. I’m now retired, which means playing golf, watching nieces and ex-players’ kids play basketball, hunting and fishing with my husband, and sitting on the back porch of our home in the cool pines of Ruidoso, New Mexico. I also spend a lot of time helping take care of my parents, who still live on the ranch in Taiban. I treasure the time I spend with them. It feels good to help them in their golden years. Without the help from my parents I’m not sure I could have accomplished my dreams.
I would like to tell the current Queens to wear that title with honor! Realize the name on that jersey represents a lot of pride and tradition. Remember there are many former Flying Queens pulling for you because you are now a part of our BIG family. Once a Flying Queen always a Flying Queen! The Wayland Baptist Flying Queens blazed the trail and were a crucial part of laying the foundation for collegiate women’s basketball. I received a great education at Wayland, made lifelong friends, and strengthened my faith. I had no idea that being a Wayland Baptist Flying Queen would give me such a head start in my career. It is an honor to have been a part of such an amazing historic program and college/university.
God puts people in your life for a reason. I would like to thank Sylvia Nadler for her help with my story and I would like to thank my many guardian angels for your support.
Kathy Grissom Basinger
Wayland Grad 1981
Flying Queens Forever!