If you are a mother or a grandmother, you probably had the opportunity to play 6 on 6 basketball while in high school. Quite possibly, it was the only sport available.
In 1893, girls that lived in Dubuque started playing basketball at the local YWCA. In 1920 the first state championship tournament was held, where the Correctionville High School girls’ basketball team was the winner.
The rules were simple: Three forwards, three guards, three second plays, half-court play, two dribbles and pass the ball and only the forwards could score. This was high school girls’ basketball until the last 6 on 6 game was played in 1993.
Being part of a team early on is something that Huxley resident Dea Staker remembers fondly.
“My dad put a telephone pole in the ground and attached a basket to it,” she tells. “Sometimes I would use a flashlight to practice my free throws at night. I would set goals for myself and would always add 10 more free throws before I would go in for the night.”
The love for the game was planted early in Dea. She attended many state tournament games in her early years. She tells that she had idols in Sharon Tyler (South Hamilton) and Karen McCool (Guthrie Center) and loved watching them play basketball. “My friend’s mom took us out of school every year to go to the state tournament,” she tells.
“I grew up in Woodward and played my high school career there,” she said. “We were in the Raccoon River Conference and we knew that we would never get past Adel to make it to a state tournament as a team. For every girl who was fortunate to make it to state, there were thousands like me, that never made it to the ‘Big Barn,’ but we still had the same love and passion for the game.”
Dea played in the forward court in high school. During her junior year she qualified for the State Free Throw Contest. That first trip to the Big Barn or Vet’s Auditorium lives vividly in her memory.
“I qualified, making it through sectionals and districts, shooting 25 free throws,” she explains. “When I won at the district level, that qualified me for state competition. I remember walking into Vet’s Auditorium, I looked around and I got sick. I finished in fourth place that year.”
Growing up and playing basketball in a small town was the highlight of many young girls’ lives. Every Friday night the gym would be full.
“There was a lot of community pride back then,” she recounts. “The gym would be full, and it was a small gym where the walls were actually the out of bounds. “
Dea held many records at her high school which included a game high of 70 points and a season total of 1,009 points, most free throws in a game hitting 31 of 35 and averaged 45 points per game her senior year.
“I am so thankful that I got to play 6 on 6”, said Dea. “The community spirit was so wonderful. My parents were very superstitious. My dad bought a green leisure suit that he wore to every game and my mom had a notebook that she kept game points in. My superstition involved my shoestrings that were in my Converse shoes. They would start to fray and my mother would take new shoe strings and piece over the area that was fraying so that I could always have the same shoe strings in my shoes for games.”
Dea told that her friends that she grew up with were also her team members.
“My three good friends, (Janet, Terri and Janet) and I all grew up within two blocks from each other,” said Dea. “We went through school together and we played basketball together all those years. We are now celebrating 65 years of friendships and memories together. The rest of the students (when we were in school) all thought we were heroes. We also made friends with teams from other towns and whenever we would go to the state tournament to watch, we would be treated like royalty.”
Friendships on and off the court took a deeper meaning for Dea, as she married her high school sweetheart, Jay. The couple now of 44 years, moved to Huxley and have been there ever since.
Jay taught in the Ballard School District and Dea states that she had lots of different jobs out of high school. She eventually graduated from Iowa State University with her degree in education.
The couple’s two daughters, Jennifer and Megan, both played basketball at Ballard High School and are both now married. Dea said that she loves working one-on-one helping her grandsons with basketball. All seven grandchildren are involved in different sports.
“Basketball was such a fun time,” she tells. “It was hard to let go when it was over. Colleges came knocking on my door, and I even passed up the opportunity to play on a Look magazine traveling team. I did play on a local league for fun.”
In 1988 she was inducted into the Woodward-Granger Hall of Fame.
“There were so many lessons learned playing basketball in a small rural town,” she told. “It wasn’t so intense back then, not like it is now. There were no long hours and no camps, just the back yard and local parks. It was a simpler time. I don’t believe that I was ever pushed into it by my parents. My mom and dad loved having their family close by. It was just a fun time.”
To Dea it really was a special time and she works to keep it that way.
“As Jay and I are documenting our legacy and I think of events in my life…this time has a special place. Basketball was a precious blessing for me. The heart strings will always be there,” she concluded.
The last 6 on 6 state tournament game was played in 1993. Hubbard Radcliffe was the champion.
Will Dea be watching this year’s state tournament?
Silly question. I bet she will.