Former Bearette Suzie Snider Eppers embraces impact, leaves hoops legacy

Former Bearette Suzie Snider Eppers finished her four-year Baylor career as the all-time leader in points and rebounds. Roundup file photo

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor

Baylor women’s basketball has a track record for producing notable athletes.

It’s easy to recognize names like Brittney Griner, Odyssey Sims, Kalani Brown or Sophia Young, who are all national champions at Baylor. Those are just a few former Lady Bears who have their jerseys retired.

But there’s one name that may fly under the radar. One that, if you asked all 7,093 Foster Pavilion fans who attended Griner’s recent jersey retirement if they knew who she was, the ones that answered “yes” would probably be in the minority.

Insert Suzie Snider Eppers, the first of a long line of stars to play in the green and gold. Eppers played at Baylor from 1973-77 and was the first women’s scholarship athlete in school history, boosted by her shot put throwing ability for Clyde Hart’s track and field program.

But for how good Eppers was at the shot put — she still holds the Central Texas high school record at 50 feet and 10 inches — her legacy was destined on the hardwood under Olga Fallen.

“I took being the [first] scholarship athlete to heart, and we were building a program,” Eppers said.

Eppers enrolled at Baylor following a stellar career at Robinson High School, which rests just down the road from campus. She grew up in Waco and moved to Robinson in the fourth grade, where she ended up leading the Rockettes to their first-ever state championship in 1970.

The 6-foot-1 forward said she only lost about seven games across four years in high school, and in junior high, her squad lost just once. Eppers said she went to Baylor with a winner’s mentality that she looked to continue.

But once Eppers realized she was stepping into something she called “a step above intramurals,” she knew it was important to trust the process.

“I knew I was a building block,” Eppers said. “I didn’t know to what degree, but I knew things were going to change. And my job and my responsibility at Baylor was to go and help that program get off the ground, and I wanted to win. I don’t get a lot of satisfaction out of playing a good game and not winning.”

The adjustment from high school to Baylor was also more than just putting on a different jersey. Eppers’ high school games were still 3-on-3, half-court style, and she had to pivot to a full-court game in which she had to play both offense and defense.

Giving credit to her junior high and Robinson High School coaches, Eppers had little issue transitioning, as she went on to score 3,861 career points with the then-named Bearettes. That point mark still stands as an overwhelming school record, as it’s over 500 more than Griner’s total (3,284).

Eppers averaged better than 22 points per game in her career. And her 3,861 points happened when the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) governed women’s basketball, so her mark isn’t an NCAA record. Yet her total holds as the highest recorded in collegiate women’s basketball history despite Iowa senior guard Caitlin Clark’s rising status (3,617 points and counting).

“That’s the freest I’ve ever felt as an athlete because I can play offense, I can play defense, rebound, outlet the ball, get it on a fast break,” Eppers said of her time at Baylor. “I could, a lot of times, shoot the ball on a fast break because I could get down the floor.”

She went on to become a Kodak All-American, marking the university’s first basketball All-American since 1948. Eppers’ No. 23 jersey was later retired by the Lady Bears, and she led Fallen’s fifth-place AIAW national tournament team in 1977 (33-12 record).

Eppers said she still keeps up with the Bears, who are now led by head coach Nicki Collen in her third year, as much as she can. Eppers has lost touch with most of her former Bearette teammates, but said they will always share a “strong bond.”

As someone who played nearly 50 years ago, Eppers added that she’s seen the growth of women’s sports, especially in terms of how different basketball looks now.

“It’s fantastic to watch,” Eppers said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of excitement right now with Caitlin Clark. … It’s good to see the game progress the way it has. It’s very athletic, and I like seeing that. I like seeing what girls are doing now in the game.”

She said she still reflects and wonders where basketball could’ve taken her if she had modern technology and equipment.

Eppers was also inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame as part of the 2022 class. She said she “still can’t believe” she was given the honor.

“I’m proud of the things I’ve accomplished, and I can recognize that, but to be up there with that class was something else and something I’ll never forget,” Eppers said. “And really in all honesty, the night was kind of a blur for me. … I think I know where my place was up there, but those were such great athletes, just beyond my thought that I would ever be up there sharing that stage with them.”

The forward who finished with a school-record 2,176 rebounds also said this new age of basketball makes her think she can go out and play still.

“I know I can’t, but I think I got it,” Eppers said.

She’s just grateful to have become a role model for future women’s hoopers, something she didn’t have growing up in the pre-Title IX days.

“I was watching Brittney Griner the other day and I think the best part about that whole game for me was watching the young girls go up to Brittney and having her autograph a shirt or whatever it was that they had,” Eppers said. “And they have heroes. We didn’t have them. We worshipped guys that played the game well. We had obstacles. One, we had gender obstacles. There was a lot of stereotyping going around for girls who wanted to continue to play. There were gender issues, there were equality issues with the schools that didn’t really want to fund the girls’ programs.

“My message to young girls is, now they have these heroes that they can look up to. Now the message to them should be ‘Go for it.’ Don’t let them stop you. Get out there, be what you want to be. For these kids to have this opportunity to see it, live it, have the heroes to look at, golly that just is a world of a difference than when I played.”

Michael Haag is a third year Journalism student from Floresville, a small town about 30 miles south of San Antonio. Haag is entering his third year at the Lariat and is hoping to continue developing his sports reporting skill set. After graduation, he plans to work on a Master’s degree in Journalism in order to one day teach at the college level. He does, however, plan on becoming a sports reporter for a publication after grad school.