'Red Heads' get call to Hall of Fame
JoAnn Boone Clements thought it was a leftover April Fool's Day joke.
Her brother Gary Boone of Crichton sent her a text message Monday saying the All-American Red Heads were getting inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Boone Clements, a former Greenbrier West High School and University of Charleston standout at center, played for the all-woman barnstorming basketball team known as the female version of the Harlem Globetrotters during the 1985-86 season, the Red Heads' last year in existence.
"He texted me on my way to work,'' said Boone Clements, who now resides in Vesuvius, Va. "He said, 'I'm not kidding. April Fool's was yesterday.'
"I've been ecstatic and in awe. I don't believe it. I still can't believe it. This has been an awesome year for me. Last year on April 6 they told me I had breast cancer and I thought it was the end of the world. This year on April 2 I made the Hall of Fame and I'm cancer free.''
The Red Heads, who were based in Caraway, Ark., and toured the United States and the world during a 50-year span from 1936-1986, are among the 12-member Hall of Fame Class of 2012 that includes NBA, college and international greats and pioneering contributors who will be inducted in September in Springfield, Mass.
"It was fun,'' Boone Clements recalled of her 100-plus-game stint with the Red Heads. "We traveled all over the United States and played ball. I loved playing ball. It was a real experience. You met a lot of people.
"We played in some places I came out beat up. It's hard to believe some of the places we played. You've got good and bad memories. We played firemen, cops, junior colleges and it was all men. We never played any women. Some of the men didn't like the women beating them either.
"The Red Heads used to do a skit every quarter and we would tell the guys what we were going to do so we could set it up for the fans and some guys wouldn't let you do it. That's how serious they took it.''
The Red Heads, who were either natural red heads or dyed their hair, were also responsible for entertaining the crowd during halftime while their opponents rested.
"We had different skits,'' Boone Clements said. "We all had our own little tricks. Me and another girl did a double dribble with two balls. I did two balls and she did two balls, we dribbled them and passed them back and forth.''
Boone Clements also performed a trick in which she spun the ball on her finger, deflected the ball off her knee and back onto her finger. She repeated the trick with her elbow, then for the finale she would use her elbow to shoot the ball into the basket.
"We practiced nine hours a day for two weeks before we went on the road,'' she said. "We played about every night. One night we might be in Florida and the next afternoon in North Carolina.
"We'd get to our destination and go in and play ball. It was very tiring. You had to be in good shape. We started out with seven [players during the final season] and only ended up with five. You didn't have any substitutes. That was a little rough.''
Boone Clements helped Greenbrier West advance to the Class AA state championship game in 1981, but the Cavaliers lost to Dunbar 57-54.
The Crichton resident pulled down 29 rebounds in the semifinals, which stood as an all-classes single-game tournament record until 2004 when South Charleston's Alexis Hornbuckle grabbed 30. Boone Clements averaged 24.5 rebounds in the two-game state tournament in 1991, which still stands as the all-classes mark for the tournament.
Boone Clements continued playing at the University of Charleston under coach Bud Francis for two seasons. She was on the bench on Dec. 21, 1984 when West Virginia University's Georgeann Wells became the first female to dunk in a competitive game.
"I told [Francis] if I was in the game that wouldn't have happened,'' laughed Boone Clements. "At the time I hated Bud Francis, but now I have the utmost respect for the man. He was trying to lead me down the right path and I was young and dumb.''
Orwell Moore, the owner and coach of the Red Heads, received a call from a coach in West Virginia who thought Boone Clements would be a good fit with the traveling team.
Moore and his wife Lorene led the Red Heads for more than 30 years, sometimes having as many as three teams on the road at the same time and playing over 200 games each season. Moore's son Burnie coached the Red Heads during their final season.
"He sent me the money and the ticket to go down there and a contract,'' said Boone Clements, who lost her college eligibility after signing with the Red Heads.
Boone Clements received $600 per month plus $270 per month for meals.
Boone Clements left the Red Heads sometime during the 1985-86 season for reasons she still doesn't remember. After returning home to West Virginia she moved to Virginia, where she worked for DuPont in Waynesboro for 181/2 years before the plant shut down. Boone Clements then went back to school and earned her prerequisites for nursing and now provides private care for the elderly.
"I still live in the country,'' she said. "I like the mountains.''
Boone Clements remains active on the basketball court in spite of undergoing two surgeries last year for breast cancer and chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
"I still get out in the yard and beat my grandchildren,'' she chuckled. "I told my grandson I'll be 90 in a wheelchair and I'll still beat him. I went out there [Monday] and shot 18 out of 20. I shoot all the time. I have a spot out there that's mine. I can just make them and make them.''
Boone Clements remembers taking a tour of the Hall of Fame on a road trip during the 1985-86 season while the facility was under renovation.
"We walked through it,'' she said. "I didn't think I'd ever be there again. When I found out [that the Red Heads were getting inducted] my husband already said we were going to leave a couple of days before and make sure we go by there.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.