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From tragedy to triumph

It’s Nov. 17, 2011, an important day for OSU Women’s Basketball Coach Kurt Budke. The Cowgirls are just coming off a win against Rice and are ready to travel to Arkansas for a recruiting trip to scout high school prospects. Traveling with the head coach is Assistant Coach Miranda Serna and two others. Rather than spending uncomfortable hours in a small, stifling car, the coaches decide to fly in a small plane with loyal booster and former Oklahoma State Senator Olin Branstetter.

The plane takes off. It would be the last time anyone would see them alive.

At approximately 4:10 p.m. the single-engine aircraft crashes nose-first into the ridges of Perryville, Arkansas, killing everyone on board.
The passing of Coach Budke reverberates through the entire Oklahoma State community finally settling on his young team. Standout freshman Vicky McIntyre is devastated.

Towering over most of her teammates at 6-feet 7-inches, McIntyre is a force to be reckoned with at any level of hoops. But today isn’t about accolades and statistics; basketball doesn’t really matter much anymore. Today, the freshman post-player is in mourning, debating whether or not basketball is something she can continue; at least for the Cowgirls.

“After the crash, it was just different,” said McIntyre, her country accent choking a little bit. “I couldn’t play around the people or in the arena any longer, it was just too difficult. I had to get away and get a fresh start.”

McIntyre parted ways with OSU after her sophomore campaign, and transferred to the University of Florida to continue playing the game she loved.

Her next season was a roller coaster of results and emotions. The NCAA deemed McIntyre eligible to play without sitting out a year under the Div. I tranfer ruling. She appeared in 29 games, instantly becoming a post-presence for the Lady Gators.

The smell of the hardwood, the squeak of gym shoes burning the practice floor, the clank of the ball hitting the rim no longer excited her. Basketball was coming to an end.

For the last eight games of the season, she decided not to dress out or participate in any more games.

“I went through some really personal things and decided to quit playing ball,” said McIntyre. “I finished up my last semesters as a regular student.”

That word “regular” was never the best adjective to describe McIntyre.

She finished the 2012-2013 season with the Lady Gators and walked away from basketball. In December of 2013 she graduated from UF with a degree in advertising.

The basketball star’s experiences on the court were far from over. McIntyre got in touch with Jenni Bryan, an old teammate from OSU. Bryan had also left Stillwater hoping to escape the painful memories of losing her beloved coaches. Bryan was playing guard at ORU.

“My friend and old teammate told me I should come here to play,” said McIntyre. “She told me I could come here, get my grad degree and just have fun playing ball…I said, ‘OK.’”

McIntyre was ready to play again. She joined the Golden Eagles during the 2013-2014 and was limited to practicing with the team as she redshirted the season.

McIntyre is currently having the season of her life.

Since the start of the 2014-2015 season, she has emerged as a team leader. McIntyre leads the nation in blocks averaging 4.6 a game. She averages 12.1 ppg and ranks second in the NCAA in rebounds and double-doubles with 14.9 and 12 respectively.

“I came into this thinking I was just going to have fun with it,” said McIntyre. “I’m not the most vocal on the court, but I am leading in other ways with my play.”

Despite being a less-vocal leader, her performance has spoken volumes across the nation. McIntyre has received two Summit League player of the week and a player of the month award. She also earned a spot on starting five after breaking a Summit League record with 27 rebounds in a game against Austin Peay.

These days you can see McIntyre smiling and enjoying her time as a Golden Eagle.

She hopes to continue a basketball career into the professional ranks after graduation in May.

“I want to play overseas for sure,” said McIntyre. “There’s lots of opportunity to travel and make a lot of money. That’s what I want to do.”

Till then, she’s focused on helping her team become as successful as possible. Vicky McIntyre has found a new home; her former coaches are resting in peace and now she has found some peace of her own.

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