Lady Royals celebrate NCAA anniversary

PAT CANDIDO
Sports Correspondent

Photos courtesy of mike frederick for the aquinas in 1985 DEANNA KLINGMAN (left) goes up for a layup in the 1985 NCAA Division III Final Four in DePere, Wis. The Lady Royals won their only national championship that year, and Klingman was the national player of the year in Division III. She is now the head coach of the Lady Royals. Shelley Parks (right) drives to the hoop against the College of New Rochelle in the 1985 championship game. The team won the championship 68-59.

Photos courtesy of mike frederick for the aquinas in 1985
DEANNA KLINGMAN (left) goes up for a layup in the 1985 NCAA Division III Final Four in DePere, Wis. The Lady Royals won their only national championship that year, and Klingman was the national player of the year in Division III. She is now the head coach of the Lady Royals. Shelley Parks (right) drives to the hoop against the College of New Rochelle in the 1985 championship game. The team won the championship 68-59.

The University’s women’s basketball program celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Lady Royal’s first and only NCAA Division III National Championship on March 16.

Former head coach Mike Strong made eight Final Four appearances in his 34-year career as the women’s basketball coach but only won this single elusive championship in 1985.

“We had some very close battles, and that brings kids together when they win that,” Strong said. “They just refused to lose to anybody, that’s the way they were.”

The magical season saw Strong lead the Lady Royals to a remarkable 31-1 record.

Strong said the road to the NCAA Championship was extremely difficult, and without luck it would not have been possible.

It helped that Scranton had two standout transfers in guard Deanna (Kyle) Klingman and center Shelley Parks.

Klingman, then known as Kyle, was the team’s sensational guard and is now the Lady Royals’ head coach. Strong said that Klingman could do it all, both scoring and passing at an elite level.

“She was the best player that’s ever played here at The University,” Strong said. “She literally could do everything.”

Despite only playing at Scranton for one year, Klingman flourished under arguably the best coach in NCAA Division III women’s basketball history. She only needed one season to enter the Lady Royals’ record book, as she holds the highest assist average in a single season to date.

The senior transfer was the national player of the year in 1985, averaging 18.1 points, 8.1 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game.

Luckily for Strong and the rest of the Lady Royals, she saw something in the team that she could not pass up.

“I transferred in my senior year, and I came because I wanted to play with a team that was dedicated to winning and getting the best out of his (Strong’s) players,” Klingman said.

Klingman was not the only one to see something in Strong and the rest of the Lady Royals, though. The 6-foot-3-inch Parks decided to join them after her 1984 season, too.

The then-junior played a key role for Scranton, dominating in the paint as a scorer and an outstanding rebounder. Strong acquired two of the national players of the Year, Klingman in ‘85 and Parks in ‘87.

Even though they were only on the same team for a year, the opportunity they had would not be wasted. Klingman orchestrated the offense around the perimeter with the other talented guards, while Parks took care of things down low.

Strong was fortunate enough to head the operation. He knew he acquired two of the most talented players Scranton had ever seen.

“The two of them talked and they decided to come and transfer in,” Strong said. “So I had two of the best players in the nation playing on the same team for me.”

In fact, Strong believes he had the opportunity to coach a team full of talent. Despite having a completely new lineup featuring the two transfer standouts, the Lady Royals clicked right away and won the NCAA Division III National Championship 30 years ago.

 

March 27, 2015

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