This is a little sad, but Angela Buckner says her best memory at Wichita State came during her freshman year, when the Shockers hosted Southwest Missouri State.
Buckner looked around wide-eyed at Levitt Arena’s capacity crowd of 10,612, a women’s Missouri Valley Conference record, many there to see Bears star Jackie Stiles.
The Shockers lost that game in overtime. Buckner’s a senior now, along with April Banks, Carlesa Dennis, Michelle Pettigrew and Tisharria Huggins. They play their last home game tonight, again against SMSU, a team Buckner’s 1-7 against. The Shockers will not approach a sellout, even though they’re offering $1 tickets.
But none of this is sad to Buckner, and here’s why.
“Kids come up to you after the game, and they make you feel like you’re the best thing in the world,” she said. “You can play a minute, or you can play two seconds, and they still want your autograph. I love that.”
So don’t cry for Buckner tonight. Cry for Shocker fans. They’re not only losing a local girl who happens to be the best rebounder in school history, they’re losing one of the most personable, outspoken, intelligent role models WSU has had.
Buckner admits she’s ready to move on with her life. She actually came close to walking away from basketball a year ago, having already earned her degree after three years. She was upset about the firing of the coach who recruited her, Darryl Smith.
But new coach Jane Albright convinced her to stay, and so did her parents, who wanted to experience their daughter’s senior night.
So Buckner took hours toward a master’s degree – she almost has that now, too – and set out to obliterate the school career rebounding record.
“I’ve set my mark,” Buckner said. “If I can’t do anything else, I can rebound. You can guarantee I’ll do that every night, and bust my butt doing that. And I hope people remember me for that.”
She’s made herself hard to forget.
Buckner is about to lead the Valley in rebounding for the fourth straight season. Her 1,275 boards are 254 more than the second-place holder. She’s the Valley’s active leader in career double-doubles with 66, including 16 this season. She was named to the MVC’s Scholar-Athlete team after compiling a 3.66 grade-point average in sports administration.
Buckner says it’s regrettable that none of her Shocker teams had a winning record – last season they flopped late and finished .500 – but her perspective is healthy.
“Of course I did want to win more,” Buckner said. “But sometimes even if you don’t win, you learn a lot from losing. There’s been rough times and good times. Overall it’s been a great experience. But it’s going to be a nice experience to get it over with, too. WSU’s helped me become the person I’m going to be.
“Besides, it’s not over. We are the team you never know about. This could end up like I never imagined.”