Sanders, Tracer Chosen for Rector High HOF
Roma Nell (Bullock) Sanders
The game of basketball has changed quite a bit over the years. In the case of women's basketball, the change is much more dramatic.
At the time 2013 Rector High School Sports Hall of Fame inductee Roma Nell Bullock Sanders played senior high basketball, 1950-1952, the women's game was barely recognizable by today's format. During the aforementioned period, the game was played on only one half of the court. Additionally, guards played only defense and forwards played only offense.
"It was a lot different back then," Sanders said. "I wish it would've been more like what the boys played; more like it is now."
Players had two very distinct roles, but Sanders shined at both.
While women's games were traditionally low-scoring outings, the offensive capacity of Rector noticeably increased with Sanders at forward. Though scorebooks for this period are not available, clippings from key games have been found in copies of the Clay County Democrat from the period. In 1951, she scored an incredible 31 points in a victory over Greenway, an output which was all but unheard of at the time. The win was part of an 11-game stretch in which she netted 118 points, including a 30 point outing against Knobel in the Clay County Tournament and had a pair of 20 point performances against Piggott en route to a Rector championship in the tourney.
Sanders was an All-Clay County selection and was heralded by the Democrat as "the best all-around forward in the county."
Though records and reliable information from the time is limited, Sanders' peers are quick to praise the skill with which she played.
RHS Hall of Famer Donald Ray Pruett, a member of the Rector Blackcats from 1952-1954, recalls seeing Sanders in action.
"Roma Nell was the most aggressive girl player that I ever saw play," Pruett said. "She was more skillful than her teammates and many times practiced with the boys' team--and she would guard me. I would much rather have had one of the boys guarding me than Roma Nell. She was tough."
Sanders was coached by Les McKeel in 1948-1949, Mary Jo Purcell in 1949-1950 and Clyde Benson from 1950-1952.
The 1952 RHS graduate was clearly among the best players of her time, but opportunities to continue playing basketball after high school were almost nonexistent.
"It's a shame that there weren't more girls' programs at that time," Pruett said. "She was a very good basketball player; better than most boys and men."
Sanders will join fellow 2013 inductees Jason Manchester, Kelly Scobey, Bobby Tracer and Matt Mills in a special ceremony beginning with a noon luncheon on Aug. 31 at the RHS gymnasium.
Bobby Tracer has always loved Rector athletics.
A Rector High School graduate in 1974, Tracer worked with basketball coach Sam Casey for six years, serving as a student assistant for three years, 1969-1971, and working as team manager from 1972-1974.
"Bobby Tracer was the most dependable team manager that a coach could ever have," Casey said of Tracer during his high school years. "Whether it was mopping the gym floor, washing the team's practice or game uniforms or polishing the game balls, you could count on Bobby to not only do the job, but do it well. Bobby loved being with the Blackcats. He was like a son to me."
After high school, Tracer continued to help the team, serving as scorekeeper and statistician for a number of years.
Tracer likely had his biggest impact on Rector basketball as an adult. He coached peewee basketball in the Lion's Club youth league for a total of 18 years. During that time, he would also partner with other volunteer coaches Terry Pratt and Dennis Adams, working both in-town and on the peewee traveling team. In 1987-1989, Tracer led his teams to championship games in tournaments at Greene County Tech, Oak Grove and other regional locations. In 1989, Tracer's peewee team played 40 games, coming away victorious in the majority of their outings.
Tracer also coached youth baseball. In his first season, his squad lost every game. Tracer told his players, "this will never happen again." Working together, coach and players made sure it didn't. With help from Perry Mills, Tracer's youth teams turned things around and either won their league outright or tied for the next seven years.
His influence remains with his former players, now adults. He coached a generation of players, with many having children who participate in area sports today.
"My dad asked me how good will our team be," Matt Rabjohn recalled. "I said, 'I don't know. Bobby hasn't told me yet.'"
"After high school, Bobby did not move away," former player Kirk Ford said. "Rector was his home where he could work with the city youth program to coach and peewee baseball and basketball players. If you needed help, you asked Bobby."
Tracer will join fellow 2013 inductees Jason Manchester, Kelly Scobey, Roma Nell Sanders and Matt Mills in a special ceremony beginning with a noon luncheon on Aug. 31 at the RHS gymnasium.