It also helped that Gary-Sweeney had a 40-plus inch
vertical leap, a major reason why she drew interest from
K-State's volleyball and track and field teams. Gary-Sweeney
recalls one moment where her springboard legs surprised Anne
Donovan, a 6-foot-8 center who played for Old Dominion and
went on to a professional coaching career.
standing there and she was just waving the ball over my head
and looking down at me, like, 'Oh, I got you,'" Gary-Sweeney
recalled. "And before she knew it, I jumped up and I knocked
the ball out of her hand. She just turned around and looked at
me, like, 'You did something that many people could not even
do at 6-feet, and for you do it at 5-5 was a feat within
itself.' Those are the kind of things I
Outside of basketball, Gary-Sweeney pointed
to the people of Manhattan as a fond memory. Specifically, she
brought up former K-State football great Veryl Switzer as a
"Mr. Switzer was the one who basically kept me
in line," she said. "When I needed to talk to somebody, when I
got down on myself because of something that happened, he was
the one who I would go and talk to. I loved the people there
at Kansas State at the time."
African-American, also said she learned as much about people
as she did about herself while at K-State.
time, Kansas State was on the verge of being diverse. Now,
it's really diverse," she said. "Even though we played white
teams (in high school), I didn't know a whole lot about them.
Kansas State gave me that opportunity to learn about people
that don't look like me."
Gary-Sweeney took her lessons
into a 27-year career in the Air Force, where she made her
name known on the basketball court as well. In 1988, she was
named the Department of Defense Female Athlete of the Year and
the Air Force Female Athlete of the Year.
I learned from Kansas State, I took those and I transitioned
into the military and it worked out fine," she said.
"Basketball has gotten me into so many places and I've met so
many people on the civilian side and the military side that I
never thought I would."
More than 30 years after her
career at K-State ended, Gary-Sweeney's name is still a
mainstay in the program.
In 2015, Gary-Sweeney received
a surprising phone call from K-State head coach Jeff Mittie.
He told her the team was naming its postseason hustle award
after her. Now, she makes it a point to come back to K-State
every other year to present her award and to give the
recipient a specially made coin as well.
something personal for me to make that player know and
understand that this means just as much to me as it means to
you," said Gary-Sweeney, the first female inductee into the
K-State Athletics Hall of Fame (1998). "I look forward to
going back every other year."
Currently retired on the
military side, Gary-Sweeney still works as the district chief
of contracting for the Memphis District Corps of Engineers.
Included in her day-to-day duties is helping coordinate
recovery efforts for major disasters, such as
"I'm still active," she said. "I still
don't like sitting down."
Gary-Sweeney rarely thinks
about her basketball career anymore, but she recognizes the
importance it has had in her journey to success afterward. One
chapter may close, but it's never really over.
people say, 'What did basketball do for you?'" Gary-Sweeney
said, "I can honestly say basketball was the key for me to be
sitting where I'm sitting at right now."
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like
to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails,
so fire them our way. Contact Corbin McGuire, or K-State
Associate AD for Communications Kenny