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Posted 6/26/2017

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By Ken Williams, Memphis District Public Affairs Office

What do Legendary Major League Baseball star George Brett and our own District Contracting Officer, Priscilla Gary Sweeney have in common? They're both 2017 Inductees to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame (KSHOF) announced its 2017 induction class of 13 members on June 7. 

Sweeney was nominated by her alma mater, Kansas State University, for induction to the KSHOF. She was voted into the Hall of Fame by a committee of over 300 voters, consisting of media members, KSHOF inductees, and supporters of the KSHOF.

Sweeney was a member of the Kansas State University Wildcats Women's Basketball Teams 1981-1983.  She was the team's top scorer in 1982 and 1983, leading the team to the Big Eight title both years. In 1982, she helped her team reach the Elite Eight and in 1983 they reached the Sweet 16.

In 1983, Sweeney earned the distinction of being KSU's first Kodak All-American women's basketball player in the school's history. She also became the first female inductee to the KSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.

In 2009, the Wildcats honored Sweeney in a jersey retirement ceremony where her Number 10 was housed to the rafters of Bramlage Coliseum.

While at KSU, Sweeney played second guard and small forward, making 55-percent of her field goal attempts (ranks third in KSU history), and averaging 18.3 points per game--a KSU career record that still stands.

After playing basketball and running track at Hamilton High School in Memphis, Sweeney started her collegiate basketball career in 1979 at Shelby State College, (now known as Southwest Tennessee Community College) in Memphis and moved on to KSU in 1981.  She was inducted into the Southwest Tennessee Community College Hall of Fame in 2003.

After graduating from KSU, Sweeney served in the U.S. Air Force as a contracting specialist and retired at the rank of Senior Master Sgt.  There she was the Department of Defense Female Athlete of the Year and Air Force Female Athlete of the Year in 1988.  She also played semi-professional basketball from 1996-1998.

At 30, the Houston Comets invited Sweeney to play in the Women's National Basketball Association.  She declined the offer to follow other pursuits.

Sweeney joined the Memphis District as a contracting specialist in 2004. She is now the District’s Contracting Office chief.

I sat down with Sweeney to get her reaction to her nomination and Hall of Fame induction:

WILLIAMS: When you were playing basketball in college, did you ever imagine that basketball would still be positively impacting your life so many years later?

SWEENEY: No. When I was playing, I was just doing something I liked. I never thought about the accolades I would receive 20 years, almost 30 years later. I never ever thought about it. When stuff started to happen, I said ‘OK’ After each award, I would just go back to doing what I was doing at the time and a couple of years later someone else calls for some other recognition. So no, I never thought that it would still be impacting me the way it is now.

WILLIAMS: While you were still playing, did you have a sense that you were having an impact on the game?

SWEENEY: No, I never thought that in a million years, because when I was playing ball I was always told I was too short, I was too small, there was always a hurdle I had to jump over. 

WILLIAMS: How did you feel or react when you got the news you were an inductee to the Hall of Fame?

SWEENEY: When I was inducted to the Kansas State University Hall of Fame, I thought that would be it.  So, when the young man called and said that this has nothing to do with Kansas State, this is the State of Kansas that wants to induct me into its Hall of Fame, I said ‘Really?’ He explained to me that Kansas State University submitted my name for this induction class. He said this has been in the works for the last two or three months. I’m like, ‘oh my God, OK.’ I don’t know how to act. I don’t get too excited about too many things. Maybe by the time I get through the ceremony and everything I’ll get excited about it. Right now, I’m just trying to get through to the end of the fiscal year.

WILLIAMS: What was your secret to success on the basketball court? 

SWEENEY: People telling me I couldn’t do it. That was my driving force, people telling me I can’t do this or I can’t do that. That was my motivation to try to do and be the best that I could be.

WILLIAMS: What have you taken from basketball that’s relevant today, something you use in your everyday life?

SWEENEY: My willingness to fail. My competitive spirit. My thing about not letting people run over me. The biggest thing is preparation. I learned in basketball that you must prepare. Whenever I must do something out of the norm, I prepare for it. I still go through that process of preparation. That’s the biggest thing I learned was how to prepare. 

In honor of Sweeney, KSU introduced the Priscilla Gary Hustle Award in 2015, which is given each year to the player who most demonstrates the hustle Sweeney exemplified. The coin given to the award winner bears Sweeney’s KSU team portrait.

Sweeney’s KSHOF induction takes place on Oct. 1 in Wichita, Kan.