NORMAN — A local woman, former member of the Wayland Baptist University Flying Queens and former women’s basketball coach at OSU, attributes her success to her Noble Bear teammates.
Judy Bugher of Slaughterville started her basketball career early. She played ball at Noble High School under coach Paul Hansen in the mid 1950s, then played for the Flying Queens at Wayland Baptist in Plainsview, Texas. Later, she became the women’s basketball coach at OSU from 1977-83 — the same time Hansen coached there.
Bugher, ever humble, says she attributes her success to her teammates from Noble, who still remain her friends.
“I wouldn’t have had anything if I hadn’t had my teammates,” Bugher said. “They threw me the ball.”
Teammates Joyce Miller Carle and Esther Calvert Bryant smiled at the remark and, like the great friends they are, chatted about times and games past while sitting around Bugher’s kitchen table in Slaughterville. The trio still attends basketball games when possible. Sometimes they go to OU games and sometimes they watch the Thunder. They tease Bugher to avoid watching games on TV because, as a former coach, she sometimes becomes animated at some of the referees’ calls.
Bugher got her start back in the mid 50’s when girls’ basketball wasn’t popular.
“It wasn’t ladylike for girls to play basketball in Norman,” Bryant said, explaining that girls’ basketball was limited to rural schools like Dibble, Lexington, Washington and Noble.
But for Bugher and her teammates, that turned out to be a good thing.
“We had a unique set up,” Carle said. “Esther is a lefty and Judy was always in her spot at post. I could drive right. The guards didn’t know what we were going to do. If they doubled up on Judy, then either of the other two was free. They didn’t know how to guard us. We had three good guards, too, on the other end.”
Since Bugher was 6-foot tall and good at what she did, Noble’s Coach Hansen had Millie Clark Cooper, Donna Calvert McMillan and Erlene Hicks Shervin dog Bugher during practice. At times, Cooper hung on Bugher so she couldn’t shoot.
“I had all three of them on me at once almost all of the time. Coach Hansen was trying to toughen me up,” Bugher said. ”I still have some scars,” she added with a chuckle.
The Lady Bears went on to win regional and then on to state in 1955. After high school, Bugher attended Wayland Baptist University in Painsview, Texas, where she played for the Flying Queens led by coach Harley Redin and sponsored by Claude Hutcherson, whose air service flew the team all over the country to play basketball. The team won 131 straight games between 1953 and 1958. This past summer, the Flying Queens were honored with the Trailblazers of the Game award at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn. Twenty-four of the 31 women on the team are still alive and 21 attended the induction ceremony, Bugher said. Even Coach Harley Redin, 94, was there.
“It was just super,” Bugher said. “Just all of us getting back together again. It was just like we were gone for the summer and in September you’re back together again. It was so special to have our coach still with us,” Bugher added, reporting that he knew every one of the players and told something about each one.
While at the induction, Bugher remembered her friends at home and brought them T-shirts. She says she is just as close to Carle and Bryant as they were back in the day. They still live close to each other. Bryant says she’s “kin to Judy by marriage” and Carle quips that she’s the “fifth daughter” in Bugher’s family.
So, what’s next for the trio of friends and former teammates? Attending more basketball games together. Meanwhile they say they’re looking forward to the season and reminiscing about their time together as Lady Bears and beyond.
Bugher sums up her success as being supported by her friends.
“The honors I received were the result of my background. The importance for me was having good teammates and my coach,” Bugher said. “I just give credit to them for making it possible for me.