By Chris Derrett
Editor in chief
Baylor fans came from all around to enjoy the Lady Bears’ 73-50 win over Texas A&M in the Big 12 tournament title game. The Lariat caught up with a few folks who have followed the Lady Bears all season.
Reservations for five
At a Big 12 tournament championship game it’s hard not to notice a kid with a posterboard cutout of Kim Mulkey, his brother and sister wearing green and gold wigs and their parents sporting similar headgear.
It’s mission accomplished for the dancing and screaming Suchecki family, who made the 600-mile trip from Waco to watch the Lady Bears hoist the trophy for the second straight year.
“Of course it was worth it,” said Ron Suchecki. “It’s happiness. It’s great stuff to root on Baylor and Baylor Nation.”
Ron drove himself to Kansas City while his wife, Melinda, and three children, 11-year-old twins Caleb and Jacob and 7-year-old Sage, flew up after the children got out of school.
The Sucheckis, especially the children, were a rare breed at Municipal Auditorium this week. Caleb, Jacob and Sage might have been the only children in the arena, a venue sparsely populated while the men’s tournament took place five blocks down the street.
Ron took Caleb and Jacob to see the men’s team defeat Kansas Friday night, but the Lady Bears have been the family’s pastime all season.
“For our family, it’s something we get to do together. You can’t really put a price on it. It’s more than entertainment. It’s our time spent together,” Melinda said.
There was no surprise when the kids were asked what they like best about Lady Bears basketball.
“Brittney Griner,” Caleb said.
When asked for specifics, Jacob needed just three words.
“Dunks and blocks,” Jacob said.
Sage said she’d have a question for Brittney Griner if given the opportunity.
“Can I cut the net down with you?” she said.
The Sucheckis also converted a Red Raider to a temporary Baylor fan. Melinda’s aunt, Wanda Atkinson, came to see the Texas Tech women in the tournament. Once Baylor defeated the Red Raiders, Atkinson said if her team couldn’t beat the Aggies, a Lady Bears victory would be the next best thing.
Fayetteville, Ga., residents Wayne and Jane King don’t always get to see the Lady Bears, but when they do, they prefer to see them win.
It usually works out pretty well.
“We like getting used to it,” Jane said after the final buzzer at Saturday’s game. Wayne added, “This is nothing unusual.”
Proud Baylor graduates, Wayne (class of ’56) and Jane (class of ’58) live just south of Atlanta and travel to the biggest Lady Bears games each year. Each year they travel with friends from Iowa State for the Big 12 tournament.
In November the Kings drove to Knoxville and watched the Lady Bears knock off then-No.6 Tennessee, 76-67, and they’ve got tickets booked for Denver in hopes of Baylor making its second final four in three years.
“We love the pageantry, and you just don’t get that if you listen on the radio or watch on television,” Wayne said.
The Kings have followed Baylor through the years, and they wouldn’t have chosen any other school.
“We had a friend who said, ‘You all are really loyal to your school. I don’t think I’ve been back to my school since I graduated.’ And I said, “Evidentially your school didn’t do for you what Baylor did for us,” Jane said.
Wayne and Jane have seen the good times and bad, and they agree there might never have been as good a time to be a Baylor Bear as now.
“I think a Sports Illustrated article, which was written by a Baylor grad, said Baylor is trying to win and do it the right way. That’s what this means to me,” Jane said. “For so many years it was poor Baylor. And it’s not anymore.”