Just A Girl From West Texas
Ramona Black's Journey To The North Texas Athletic Hall of Fame
The North Texas Athletic Hall of Fame will be held Friday afternoon at Apogee Stadium. Tickets to the event are avaliable here.
DENTON — Across the street from where Ramona Black grew up in Plainview, Texas, in the 1970s and 1980s stood an abandoned building sitting on a 10-acre plot of land.
Booker T. Washington High School, a once all African-American school, had been closed since full integration in 1967. With no caretakers, the campus’ buildings had become completely deserted. Its doors rusted. Its yard taken over by plants and most of the lights left broken.
Except in one room.
For an unexplained reason the school’s gymnasium remained open and its lights maintained and managed.
“I don’t know who kept the lights on but I need to thank them,” Black said. “Every day I walked across the street and practiced.”
With a little luck from a forgotten school’s maintenance crew, her mom’s guidance and a super hero figure, Black turned into one of the most dominating women’s basketball players in North Texas history, finishing with 1,452 points, 416 assists and 263 steals, all in the top-three of their respective categories in school history.
On Friday, the 1991 North Texas graduate will be recognized and forever remembered when she is inducted into the university’s athletic hall of fame.
“To be in the same breath with North Texas greats has me in disbelief,” Black said. “For someone who grew up in a little town in West Texas and grew up playing basketball in an abandoned school, it has me in disbelief.”
Black was recruited to North Texas by head coach Judy Nelson, who led the Lady Eagles to their first NCAA postseason two years prior to Black arriving on campus in 1987.
“She was persistent,” Black said of Nelson. “She believed in the program and this university. She’d recruit the best of the best. Her belief amazed me and sold me.”
One of the best players Nelson brought to Denton was 6-foot-2 post Clara Campbell. In two seasons with the Lady Eagles from 1985-1987, Campbell averaged 17.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
To Black she was a larger than life figure.
“To think I was at the same school that Clara played at was hard to believe at the time,” Black said. “Where I came from centers were 5-foot-10.”
But Black’s road to North Texas was no accident.
Along with practicing in a forgotten gym as a child, Black was pushed by her mother, Elizabeth. A great basketball player in her own right, Black’s mother taught her about hard work and commitment.
While in high school, Black tried out to be a flag girl, only because she wanted to have the freedom to be able to walk home after. But when she was awarded a spot on the team as a flag girl Black wanted to quit.
Her mother wouldn’t let her.
“She told me I made a commitment to the team and they believed in me enough to pick me,” Black said. “She made me stay for the rest of year.”
Being a flag girl, though, wasn’t enough.
“She was a believer that if you’re going to do something that you give it your all,” Black said.
Black wasn’t a flag girl for long but claims to be the best Plainview has ever had.
When she arrived on campus at North Texas her work ethic was immediately noticed, and it showed in games. As a freshman, the 5-foot-7 Black was the team’s leading scorer at 16.5 points per game and had a team-high 82 steals.
As a junior in 1989 the world came full circle when the Lady Eagles’ hired head coach Tina Slinker who was a graduate of Wayland Baptist University in Plainview.
Wayland Baptist isn’t your standard women’s basketball program. The Flying Queens were the UCONN of its time, winning 131 consecutive games. Furthermore, they were a glamorous women’s basketball team playing on athletic scholarships and traveling in private planes. This was as early as the 1950s, 20 years before Title IX prohibited sex discrimination in education and 30 years before the NCAA began sponsoring women’s basketball.
“The Flying Queens are a strong group of women that have produced many great players, coaches and leaders,” Black said. “It’s a sisterhood of players. To know I was being coached by someone I was familiar with who came from West Texas was comforting.”
That same year Clara Campbell joined the coaching staff as an assistant.
“It was like being around the tallest super hero,” Black said.
From time-to-time, Black would play pick-up games with Campbell at the Physical Education Building on campus.
“When we played with Clara none of us thought we’d measure up with her,” Black said. “To think I’m in the hall of fame with her is extremely humbling and something I’m proud of.”
Black currently lives in McGregor, Texas, with her husband Frank Graves. There she’s worked for the state for 23 years as a manager in family protective services.