Clovis resident reflects on season competing in WBL

Clovis resident Mary (Fuller) Scott played for the St. Louis Streak during the final season of the Women’s Professional Basketball League in 1980-81. Photo by Eric Kluth

By Dave Wagner

For a small-town girl from Mississippi, Mary Scott was thrilled to get the opportunity to play women’s professional basketball.

The Clovis resident just wishes the Women’s Pro Basketball League (WBL) had received the support — financial and otherwise — of its descendent, the eight-year old Women’s National Basketball Association.

The WBL was in existence from 1978-81. Scott — who was then Mary Fuller — was drafted by the St. Louis Streak in 1980, and played during the league’s final season.

“I don’t regret (playing in the WBL),” Scott said. “It was nice. Being from a small town, having an opportunity to travel and meet people, I don’t take it back at all.”

Scott has lived in Clovis for three years with her husband, Senior Master Sgt. Roderick Scott Sr., who is stationed at Cannon Air Force Base. She is currently working as a youth program director at the base.

The Scotts are scheduled to be transferred to England in June for another three-year stint.

Mary Scott graduated from Hazelhurst (Miss.) High School in 1976, and stayed in-state to play Division I college ball at Jackson State.

“My father had a third grade education, and my mother went to 11th grade,” she said. “I knew I had to get a basketball scholarship to be able to go to college.”

She was a number of credits short of graduating when she was drafted by the WBL.

“I had to make a decision whether to go pro or finish college,” she said. “My dreams were to be successful in whatever I attempted to do. I always felt I could go back and get my college degree, but this was a lifetime opportunity.”

She recently completed her college degree in physical education with a minor in psychology at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.

The WBL failed to land a television contract early on, and had substantial financial problems before closing shop for good after its third season.

Scott, who will turn 47 in July, said she started for the Streak in the 1980-81 season and averaged around 15 points a game. St. Louis made it to the playoffs that year, but was eliminated in the first round.

Last fall, she attended a 25th anniversary reunion for the league in Chicago.

She said she’s happy to see the WNBA, with significant financial outlay from the National Basketball Association and a solid TV package, doing quite well.

“What’s wonderful about it now is they do have the support of (the NBA),” Scott said. “I just see it going off the charts.”
After the WBL folded, women who wanted to play professionally had to leave the United States to do it. Scott said language was a barrier for her.

“I had three teammates that went overseas to play,” she said. “They said that not knowing the language, it was OK for a while, but they eventually came back to the states.”

She worked as a substitute teacher in St. Louis for a couple of years, then moved back to Mississippi. In the meantime, her future husband, a trainer on the Jackson State team when she was in college, kept in contact and they were eventually married in 1986.

Roderick Scott was a trainer for Mary’s team at Jackson State team, but he said he didn’t realize his true feelings for his future wife until she left Jackson State.

“We had a really good relationship (in college),” said Scott, who has been in the Air Force for 22 years. “After she was gone, I realized there was more there than I’d thought.”

Mary Scott has a daughter from a previous marriage, Mechelle, 21, who is on course to graduate from Clark-Atlanta University in Georgia. The Scotts’ son, Roderick Jr., 17, recently graduated from Clovis High School and will attend the University of Georgia in the fall.