Jayhawk Insider: Road to the Hall of Fame
By: Dayton Hammes
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas associate head coach Aqua Franklin’s journey to the Texas A&M Athletics Hall of Fame isn’t the traditional story of a Hall of Famer. It’s a story of sacrifice, hard work and determination.
We know where the story ends, but it begins at a Texas A&M basketball camp years before Franklin would step on the floor as an Aggie.
She was one of five freshmen whose commitment changed the direction of our program.
She was the first Aggie to be a two-time All-American.
She led us to our first Elite Eight.
— Texas A&M Women’s Basketball (@AggieWBB) June 27, 2018
It was at this camp that Franklin first proved herself, earning looks from the AAU organization, Houston Elite. While playing AAU basketball would guarantee more exposure to college coaches, it also meant driving to and from Houston from her hometown of Tyler, Texas multiple times per week.
Four hours. The length of time that Franklin and her mom would spend driving to her basketball practices in Houston and then another four hours home after. Overall, the opportunity proved worthwhile, but there was a time when Texas A&M, the school Franklin’s mother wanted her to play at, didn’t see Franklin at her best.
There was one tournament where Texas A&M was specifically coming to watch Franklin play.
“My coach had pumped me up to them (the Texas A&M coaches) saying, ‘I know she’s short, but she’s good; she gets it done,'” Franklin recalled. “He just drew this picture to this coach that I was the best thing out there and that I was the kid for them and I played awful.”
When the phone line went cold from A&M, Franklin wasn’t too worried because she was still receiving interest from other schools.
Fast forward to her senior season at John Tyler High School and Franklin’s mom was still set at Texas A&M. Franklin, however, was focusing on the schools that were interested in her.
As a senior, Franklin would check out of school and go to Tyler Junior College and Trinity Valley Community College and play pickup games with the college girls. This presented even more opportunities to be seen by college coaches.
Franklin was used to being around and playing in front of college coaches at this point in her high school career, but this day in particular was different. A&M was bringing coaches to Tyler Junior College to look for a point guard and Franklin was ready to prove herself.
“There were other schools there, but I checked out of school that day knowing that I had to go redeem myself and so it was really like getting ready for a game,” Franklin said. “I was really pumped about it.”
Redeem herself she did.
“It’s crazy that Coach Schaeffer came to look at their point guard and the other coaches that were there to obviously look at their players but, in the end, noticed me,” Franklin said.
Schaeffer sat down with Franklin and her mom to talk about A&M, its history and his passion for it and it was from that moment on that both were sold on Franklin becoming an Aggie – no matter what it would take to make it happen.
“Schaeffer started the meeting, ‘I’ve got one folder, and this was for her, but I’m going to give it to you,'” Franklin said.
Throughout the whole process Texas A&M was very honest with Franklin, explaining how she was the number two player that they were recruiting.
“They told me, ‘If we don’t get her, we want you,'” Franklin said.
Not wanting to be second and risk not getting picked up, Franklin was hesitant, but it was her mother who remained confident that everything would work out and her daughter would be an Aggie.
“My mom was like, ‘It’s all going to work out. You’re going to be at A&M.'”
As the season went on, Franklin and her mom attended every A&M game they could, wearing Aggie gear.
“It was almost like my mom was recruiting them,” Franklin said.
Signing day came around and Franklin didn’t sign. Texas A&M didn’t get their number one recruit, but still Franklin’s offer didn’t come. Despite being hesitant moving forward without an offer, Franklin continued to play and be watched by Texas A&M.
Coach Blair came to Franklin’s last high school game at the Ferrell Center at Baylor University where she dropped 30 points.
“He knew in that moment that I was the point guard for him,” Franklin said. “That was the best day ever because even though I wasn’t their first option, I worked to make them believe in me and trust that I could play at that level.”
While at Texas A&M, Franklin kept the same work ethic and drive, which led not only to becoming a two-time All-American, but she also helped to lead the Aggies to a Big 12 regular season championship, a Big 12 tournament championship and an Elite 8 run.
— Texas A&M Women’s Basketball (@AggieWBB) July 23, 2018
Having not been in College Station since 2010 when she was a graduate assistant for the Aggies, Franklin was surprised when she received a phone call from a 979 number that she didn’t have saved.
She got the call from that 979 number at a QuikTrip in Kansas City and tears begin rolling down her face as she learned she would become just the sixth women’s basketball player in Texas A&M history to be named to the Texas A&M Athletics Hall of Fame.
“There are a few of my teammates that have more accolades and things like that then I have, and they chose me,” Franklin said.
Right after she learned that she would be inducted, she received a phone call from Coach Blair who told her, “You were the one to start this.”
“I will never forget that because like I said there are other players that he could have put in that Hall of Fame before me,” Franklin said.
Coach Blair applauded Franklin’s work ethic and determination to get where she is now.
“I am so proud of her because she is a self-made player,” Blair said. “She showed that it doesn’t matter if you are 5-3 or 6-3, if you have the skill set, the work ethic and the heart of an Aggie, you can become a Hall of Famer.”
Franklin and the rest of the 2018 class will be inducted into the Texas A&M Lettermen’s Association’s Hall of Fame during the 41st annual Burgess Banquet on Friday, Sept. 14 in the Hall of Champions on the west side of Kyle Field.
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