Ardese stands with a Flying Queens program banner at the Naismith
Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. (submitted photo)
Rosalie Ardese was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball
Hall of Fame September 6, 2019, as a member of the Wayland Baptist
University Flying Queens basketball team. Ardese played for Wayland
between 1974 and 1975.
After graduating from Panola High School, Ardese received a
scholarship to play at Wayland. The Flying Queens held the record
for the longest win streak of any men's or women's collegiate basketball
program between 1953 and 1958 at 131. During that time the Flying
Queens won four straight Amateur Athletic Union titles. In their
35-year run, the Flying Queens won 10 overall AAU titles.
Ardese said she started her competitive sports career in the
third and fourth grades playing marbles. "I played for keeps and
whipped everyone," said Ardese. She started playing basketball in
the fifth grade and remembers her coaches stressing the fundamentals
of the game.
"My grade school coach was DeWayne Mankin and both he and my
high school coach, Ronnie Robison, stressed fundamentals. They gave
me the drive to be better, so I was blessed to be coached by them,"
From grade school fundamentals to being Oklahoma's leading scorer
her junior and senior year with an average of 38 and 33 points respectively
per game, Ardese was sought after by several colleges, finally landing
at Wayland and now, years later, the Naismith Hall of Fame.
When speaking of the Hall of Fame Ardese said, "It was an amazing,
exuberating feeling. To meet all the people, you know, you're just
a small-town kid
Ardese tells the story of flying to Springfield, Mass. Flying
in first class, she saw quite a few people going to the Hall of
Fame ceremony, she didn't know who they all were, but she recognized
several of them from TV.
One person struck up a conversation with her, asking about her
Oklahoma University shirt and talking about the Hall of Fame. "I
told him I was fixing to be inducted in the Hall of Fame and then
he just shook my hand, all the guys shook my hand," said Ardese.
Ardese goes in for a lay-up during a game. (submitted photo)
That initial handshake came from the only player to lead the
National Collegiate Athletic Association, American Basketball Association
and National Basketball Association in scoring for an individual
season, Rick Barry. If you ever saw someone on TV shooting free
throws in a game underhanded, that was probably him.
That wasn't the only brush with fame Ardese had; "The biggest
deal was Bill Russell and Larry Bird. It was exciting because I
kept telling everybody that's who I was going to meet when I got
there and he [Larry Bird] was the first one up on the red carpet,"
College wasn't all fun and games. Ardese made the team her second
year but wasn't able to play in the second semester because of her
With her grades declining and after being told that she may
not be college material by college administration, Ardese made the
hard decision to stop playing basketball so she could focus on academics.
"I dug deep into my studies to prove him wrong. I spent a lot
of time in the library; the librarian, Ms. Conway, and her mother
were angels. They were instrumental in helping me through dark days.
They invited me over to their house to eat and watch games
My primary goal was to finish school with majors in PE and Biology,
so I never returned to Flying Queens basketball," said Ardese.
"I ended up working 24 years in law enforcement and was a three-year
veteran in the Oklahoma National Guard in the 445 Military Police
unit," said Ardese. She also tried to go back and serve after September
11, 2001, but wasn't able to due to medical reasons.
That's not surprising given the fighting spirit Ardese demonstrated
during several key moments in her life. She has been in a car crash
that dislocated her shoulder and seriously damaged her knee. She
has been struck by lightning three times, describing one of the
incidents as a ball of fire coming out of her eyeball. "I was blinded
in my right eye for 7 days," said Ardese.
The most drastic moment, though, came to Ardese in the form
of a cancer diagnosis giving her six months to live. That was 40
ago and she's still here putting up a fight.
The tendency for Ardese to look trouble in the eye and tackle
it head-on shows when she goes through a list of jobs she's held.
"I worked for the State of Oklahoma Penitentiary system as a correctional
officer, transportation officer and case manager on death row. I
worked for the Latimer County Sheriff's Office as a jailer and jail
administrator. I worked for Pinkerton Government Services providing
security services in the aerospace/defense, industry. I guarded
Boeing airplanes. I was also a security guard at McAlester Army
Ammunition Plant," said Ardese.
With a life full of so many ups and downs and so many exciting
and memorable moments, the only thing Ardese was adamant about being
included in this story was how proud she is to be a representative
for the Choctaw Nation and small-town kids. "I was representing
all the kids at not only my college but all the young kids growing
up playing ball here in Southeastern Oklahoma and my Choctaw Nation,"
You may not be able to rub shoulders with basketball legends
like Bird, Barry and Russell, but if you ever get to Wilburton,
Okla. you might just catch a glimpse of basketball legend and real-life
Chahta tvshka, Rosalie Ardese. And word is, she'll sign an autograph
for you if you ask nicely.