Flying Queen

1974-78

Leanne Waddell South

I knew I would go to college in the fifth grade. My epiphany came courtesy of Opal Bogard, a Flying Queen who played from 1961-64. She was the new high school girls’ basketball coach, and she came to P.E. class one day. Coach Bogard told us stories about playing basketball at Wayland Baptist College and then she performed some ball-handling tricks she said were a part of the pre-game warm-up.

I was sold. From that day on, I wanted to go to Wayland and play for the Flying Queens.

I grew up in a small town, McCamey, Texas, about an hour from Odessa in the middle of the west Texas oil patch. My dad was a farmer/rancher, and Mom worked for the Chamber of Commerce. Since playing college basketball at Wayland was my dream, I was excited to finally step on campus in 1974. How many people get to say they lived their dream?

From 1974-78, the Hutcherson Flying Queens’ record was 132-16. We won the AAU National Tournament in 1975 and qualified for the AIAW National Tournament in 1976 and 1978. Our team goal was the same every year: to win a national championship.

Wayland Days: Wide-eyed wonder, a sad farewell, and small campus life

Competing on a championship basketball team was a challenge and there were some great memories from big wins and heartbreaking losses, but my most precious memories came off the court.

The first memory was in 1974 when I made the travel squad as a freshman. I rode in the back of Claude Hutcherson’s plane. Before then I had only flown in a plane one time. I was awed by the scenery from the sky. It never got old. If I remember correctly, I also got to haul some of the equipment!

The second memory came in 1978 as I stood on the steps of a hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii. In late May that year the Queens traveled to Hong Kong as part of a Southern Baptist foreign mission initiative. Five seniors, Shena Cooper, Marie Kocurek, Breena Caldwell, Tina Slinker, and I got to go even though we had graduated. On the way back, we stopped in Hawaii for some R&R. My mother met us there and surprised me with an extended stay in the islands as a graduation gift. As I stood on the steps and watched the vans drive away with my teammates, I realized my dream of playing basketball for the Flying Queens had ended. It was one the saddest days of my young life.

Another memorable moment as a Queen happened during one of the most difficult times in my life. On December 8, 1975, my father died from a heart attack on a ranch outside of Balmorhea, Texas. I was in Hutcherson Gym when word reached me. That night, while making plans to join my family, my teammates walked into my dorm room. One by one they hugged me. A few words, but mostly just hugs.

A few days later after Dad’s funeral, Coach Weese called to say that I could go on the trip to Mississippi College if I could get back to campus. I think Mr. Hutcherson or Coach Redin worked with staff at the ranch and arranged for a plane to fly me to Plainview. There were some tough times later as I grieved for my father, but at that time, I was grateful to rejoin the team and have their support.

I have many memories of campus life at Wayland, such as spending an afternoon in the basement of Moody Science Building as a tornado hit the west side of town. Weekends during the spring always seemed perfect. The wind (and dust) would blow Monday through Friday, but on the weekends the wind subsided, and the weather was great.

I was introduced to musical theater at Wayland. The ones I remember best are “South Pacific” and “Man of La Mancha” (great productions!). Then there was the Miss Wayland pageant. Several Queens always participated, so we would split up and serve as their pit crew – helping with make-up, evening wear and swimsuits and providing encouragement. I always admired my teammates who took part because it was a big commitment.

Living through historic change in women’s basketball

During the 1970s women’s basketball experienced significant changes nationally and in Texas that I didn’t fully appreciate until later. It seemed like colleges and universities started fully implementing Title IX about my junior year (1976), which meant the Queens started playing more major college teams instead of AAU and junior college teams.
About that same time, the University Interscholastic League, which governed Texas high school athletics, voted to change girls’ basketball from a three-on-three half-court game to a five-man full court game. As a result, colleges and Texas schools were looking for women who could coach the full-court game. I remember Coach Weese telling all five of the seniors that we all should go after head coaching jobs.

The late 70s also saw the birth of the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WPBL). All five of us ended up playing or coaching in the WPBL after college and, later, four of our group went into coaching. Coach Weese was right about greater opportunities for women coaches.

I started out coaching at Midway Junior High School in Waco, TX, working with my high school coach, Doug Chauveaux, before getting picked up by the WPBL’s Houston Angels. I only played one season before moving back into coaching. I coached and taught at Whitesboro, Waco, China Spring as well as a year at Baylor University. Coach Weese said that the first ingredient of a great player or coach was a genuine love for the game. I liked the game, but I didn’t love it. That helped me realize I needed to move on from coaching. What a blessing to have had a great college coach!

Life after college in a college town

In 1981, I married Dave South. Dave and I lived in Waco until 1988 when we moved to College Station where Dave became the radio play-by-play announcer for Texas A&M football, basketball, and baseball. I returned to college at Texas A&M and earned my master’s degree, then proceeded to work at the university for 20 years before retiring early to care for my mother and mother-in-law. In the late 80s and early 1990s, I was fortunate to work as the radio analyst for Texas A&M women’s basketball.

Dave and I have two adult sons (my stepsons) and one granddaughter. The oldest, Randy, lives in Bryan, Texas with wife Lori and daughter Gianna, who is now 13. Our younger son Mike lives in Rome, Georgia. We love living in a college town with the energy that comes from having 55,000 plus young people in your community! We’ve made wonderful friends, had fulfilling careers, and now enjoy being a part of our granddaughter’s life. Dave and I also love to travel in our RV, camping with our dog and two cats!

Final thoughts

Wayland and basketball expanded my world and impacted my life in so many ways. I hope the young ladies on this year’s team are living their dreams and use their experiences at Wayland to become great friends, spouses, employees and even bosses! But I especially pray that their time at Wayland will deepen their love for our God through Jesus Christ. Living in a college town, Dave and I have a front row seat to the challenges and struggles today’s college students face. I am so thankful to have attended a Christian college during those formative years.

I maintain contact with my, now, three teammates and follow other teammates on Facebook. They are all women I still admire and respect. As I type this, we miss Shena Cooper Layn, who died of cancer in 2010. The two photos I submitted are the five of us who played together all four years of college. The first was taken after graduation in 1978. The second is a group shot when we got together at the Big XII basketball tourney in OKC in 2009.

And to all my former teammates and Wayland friends, I was asked to tell something about myself that might surprise you. Hmmm, maybe that I can kind of, sort of cook!

Leanne Waddell South

Wayland Grad 1978

Flying Queens Forever!