By Amy Wright
Do you love the game of basketball? I mean really love it. Through the 6 am workouts. The extra line drills. The injuries. The losses. The yelling and screaming from coaches, teammates and fans. Do you REALLY love the game of basketball? If you can answer this question whole heartedly “YES!”— then you can join The Sorority.
The Sorority consists of about 20 young women, all of whom have had the life changing experience of playing point guard for Coach Gary Blair. I am positive from 1985, when Coach Blair took over at Stephen F. Austin, to our most recent inductee in 2016 from Texas A&M, Jordan Jones, we all share the same experiences of growth, challenge and change. But the one thing that reigns consistent through 20 some years is all of our love for the game of basketball. We all would not have developed into the women we are today and developed into the best basketball players we could be, without him and our love for the game.
“You can’t bust a grape!” This was Coach Blair’s roundabout way of telling me I was too soft. I feel like each semester of my career at Arkansas was highlighted by a Blairism. But each deliberate and challenging catch phrase gave me the opportunity to prove him wrong about the type of player I was going to be in the SEC. I rounded out my freshman year with “Honey, head up to the popcorn vendor.” I can’t tell you how many stairs I ran at Bud Walton Arena, but I was the most in shape point guard in the SEC. I couldn’t get a play right. I couldn’t get 4 people on the same page to run a near perfect play call. This was my responsibility as a Coach Blair PG. This was my team and I needed to take ownership of it. And I was going to run until I did.
Heading into sophomore year, I was finally coming into my own as a leader on and off the court. But I still had major issues to be an impact point guard at the SEC level. Coach Blair knew he needed me. He continuously pushed me to do better than my best. “Aaaaamay. Take care of that pumpkin today.” All he wanted was for me to stop turning the ball over. Of course I had the normal 19 year old excuses. “She’s not getting open on the wing!” “She stopped running!” “Why is everything always my fault!” It wasn’t until a very strong phone call from my mother set me straight. “Amy, you wanted to play in the toughest conference in the country. You wanted to play immediately. You want to be one of the best players in the country. How is Coach Blair asking you to play 40 minutes a game, trusting you with his team and pushing you to be better than you are such a bad thing? Sounds to me like you’re being a baby.” Awww, Big K. (That’s my, my teammates and my friends endearing name for my mother) I knew I was out numbered. It was time to change my mental game. By the end of my sophomore year, I had finally earned my first “Atta baby,” from GB.
My junior and senior years were very different than my previous two years. Though some of the best times of my life, the Coach Blair, Point Guard relationship continued to grow in a more basketball manner. I had earned his trust as a player. Now it was up to me to decipher exactly what “Do the THING & RUN the THING” actually meant during a game. I always took it as it was my turn. My turn to call the plays for his Lady Back teams. Rarely did I turn over the pumpkin and rarely did I have to go see the popcorn vendor. Many Blairisms came out of frustration from either GB or Coach Schaefer (Current Head Coach at Mississippi State) and I could only translate them as just do better. One of my all-time favorites was “Do it for my twins!” This was a Schaefer daily message, begging our team to defend with the intensity and passion he had as a coach.
Looking back at my experience and now experiencing the coaching side and working with Coach Blair, I can honestly say he was right. He was right about my ability as a player along with many other players. He was right in the way he pushed me beyond any other coach I had ever played for. He made me a basketball player, not just a kid that played basketball. He made me think the game for myself and others. He gave me responsibility beyond what I needed or deserved and forced me to accept it and grow into a leader.
I enjoy seeing my Soro sisters on the road now as a coach. Briefly, let me run through the lineage:
Christy Smith (Current Head Coach at Incarnate Word University)
Amy Wright (Assistant Coach at Texas A&M University)
Toccarra Williams (Current real estate sales & founder of the AAU program Sweet Rebound)
Aqua Franklin (Associate Head Coach at University of Kansas)
Sydney Colson (WNBA San Antonio Stars & Assistant Coach at Rice University)
Sydney Carter (Professional Player – Riga Latvia)
Adrienne Pratcher (Teacher College Station ISD & Associate Head Coach College Station High School)
Jordan Jones (WNBA Draft Pick Chicago Sky – Professional Player – Poland)
Not a bad line up. The thing that we all have in common is our experiences. We’ve been broken to be built back up. We’ve been given responsibility to fail and succeed. We’ve been given an opportunity to grow and find ourselves and our dreams. Bringing us all together with these experiences is The Sorority.
I had a short time being around Aqua Franklin during my graduate assistant ship at Texas A&M. This is where I learned it wasn’t just me that had been through this unique experience, Aqua was starting her freshman season at A&M. The one thing I know we all hate about the other is the point guard before us. I know my name was Christy for 3 years while I was at Arkansas. This was coach referring to Christy Smith (Arkansas 1994-1998) another Indiana kid that had taken a chance to come down south and attend the Gary Blair Point Guard University! Aqua was referred to as Amy and I’m willing to bet Syndey (Colson) was referred to as Aqua. Usually GB had a unique way of bringing us together because we could share our stories of anger about him, but with this small “mix-up,” he found a way for all of us to compete. Prove that we are and will be better than the last point guard to run the show.
Being the actual point guard to go through this process is so different than being a coach watching 18 to 22 year olds go through the process. I have had the privilege of working with 3 of the best that will ever go through the Texas A&M women’s basketball program, Adrienne Pratcher; Jordan Jones and Curtyce Knox. All 3 unique in their own way.
Adrienne was pretty much past the “Whoa is me” stage of becoming a member of The Sorority. By the time I had arrived at Texas A&M, Pratcher was a quiet leader and an extremely intelligent and highly competitive basketball player. She had already figured out Coach Blair’s jabs of motivation. “Pratcher, you gotta think hunny, you gotta think.” “You’re going to let a freshman take your spot.” Pratcher knowing already all he wanted was her best. Pratcher never took what happened in the game or practice personally. She knew he was pushing her to be a better player. Much like her leadership style, Pratcher had quietly taken the GB Blueprint for running a team and guided the team to the 2013 SEC Tournament title. I think she was able to prove Coach Blair wrong in that a point guard doesn’t always have to be vocal, emotional or flamboyant. Pratcher did it her way, and she did it very well.
I spent all 4 years of Jordan Jones’ career at Texas A&M by her side. She went through every emotion, every challenge and every change Coach Blair was going to put in front of her. Jordan reminded me so much of Sydney Colson with a splash of Amy Wright it was so hard at times to watch or listen to her go through practice or a game. Jordan was by far one of the smartest point guards I have ever met. If Jordan put her mind to something, it was going to be done and be done well. On those off days, and we all have those off days, it was so hard to real Jordan in from the Coach Blair style of coaching. He wanted you to be great, even on your off days. And he was going to push you until he saw it. On those days I felt somewhat helpless as I knew exactly what he was doing, but Jordan was so smart and so talented, she knew she could still get the job done even on her worst day. “Jordan, play the game with a smile on your face. Act like you enjoy it.” This was a new Blairism for me, but I knew where he was coming from. GB gave Jordan the keys to a Corvette and he so wanted her to enjoy the drive! Coach Blair and I both knew Jordan’s potential, the toughest thing was unlocking it daily. Jordan is an emotional leader. She won tons of game in an Aggie uniform and in my opinion, is one of the best point guards to ever roll through the SEC and Texas A&M.
“It’s a speaking part hunny!” I think Curtyce Knox hears this in her sleep at night. For 3 years Coach Blair has been all over her to talk on the basketball court. Pushing her to become a verbal leader. While Tyce is still growing in this aspect, she has definitely marked herself a leader for this year’s team. Curtyce is a 5th year senior. Curtyce is a graduate of Texas A&M. Curtyce has loving mother and family that adore the Aggies. Curtyce is a mother to a beautiful baby girl, Haven. Curtyce is now the point guard for the Texas A&M women’s basketball team. You know that old saying, “there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” I used to say this to Curtyce all the time. Right now she is shining in that light. And while her path to this point may not have been the norm, it was the right path for Curtyce. Although she has not faced adversity in a game, she has seen how adversity has played out with Sydney Colson, Adrienne Pratcher and Jordan Jones. She may not talk a lot, but this kid observes everything. She knows the expectations and what it takes to be competitive in the SEC, for her and the team. Tyce got her first “Atta baby” the second day of practice. While Tyce doesn’t talk much, her smile said it all in that moment.
The Sorority is unique. It’s an experience of a lifetime. It’s an ongoing membership that will never die and carry on the legacy of great people and great basketball players, along with a pretty great coach, Gary Blair.