A funny thing happens to Aileen McManus on the eve of the State B basketball tournament. She gets nervous.
That’s not unusual for a Reardan girl, until you realize it has been more than 25 years since she was the Indians’ star.
“I’ve found myself having butterflies still, because it was such an exciting time,” said McManus, who was named one of the five stars when the girls tournament celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2002. “You’re excited and nervous. It was one of the best times I really had.”
McManus helped put girls basketball on the front page, thanks to some memorable battles with Tammy Tibbles, the star of the Creston Comets. Among their 10 battles were three straight State B championship games played out before sold-out crowds at the old Coliseum.
Reardan won the championship in the middle game of the series 1983, a feat the Indians will try to duplicate when the newfangled 2B State tournament tips off Wednesday in the new Arena.
Next came four equally memorable years with the Washington Huskies – a 98-20 record, the highest winning percentage and fewest losses for a recruiting class that included Gonzaga Prep star Lisa Oriard, UW’s only outright Pac-10 championship and four NCAA tournament appearances.
And the State B tournament still stands out.
“The B tournament, you’re in one spot, all the teams are playing at different times at the same location, fighting it out,” McManus explained. “In NCAA’s you go to a location, for us there were four teams. … Then you’d go off to regional with four teams.
“It was big and it was exciting, of course, and it was at a whole other level, but it’s different. The B tournament is just a buzz. … You have to be ready for four days of intension action. It was just a rush.”
That wasn’t the only thing that fascinated her Huskies teammates.
“The State B is one thing,” she said. “I think what I talked about more was the size of my school. In my graduating class, I knew everyone, I knew everyone in town, everyone in school. That was more intriguing to my teammates. I don’t remember talking about the B tournament as much as the support of the town, what a close-knit community it is.”
McManus may have taken that for granted, especially since the Huskies built a big fan base with all their success, until she became a coach.
“We had a good following and support, but it’s Seattle, the whole city doesn’t know Roosevelt basketball and follow it,” she said.
Coaching was a second job for McManus, who is a traffic engineer for King County.
“When you’re getting out of the traffic jam and free flowing, you can thank me,” she joked.
McManus, who coached for nine years before getting out of it, continued to play basketball and was a Hoopfest regular, although she hasn’t been back for a few years.
“It was before 2002,” she said. “That’s when I hurt my shoulder and had surgery.”
She was getting back into action when she was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma and underwent eight months of chemotherapy.
“It was at Stage 3 but they gave me a very, very good prognosis,” she said. “Once I completed chemotherapy they said there was an 85 percent chance I won’t see it again. I’m very, very hopeful.”
With that kind of report, she started a family, and her daughter Norah was born eight months ago, and yes, basketball is in her future.
“I certainly hope so,” McManus said. “As everyone says, she can do whatever she wants to do, but a basketball will definitely be placed in her hands at a pretty early age just to see how she likes it. I would love to see her try it.
“I feel like I gained so much from it. … The team aspect goes all the way through your life, having that ability to work as a team. Also, the camaraderie, I want her to feel that.”
It’s a feeling that never goes away.