Mother and daughter take court together for Granny Basketball

Published: Apr. 28, 2019 at 10:09 PM CDT
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She wears a crimson K on her chest and the number 38 crested with Jayhawks on her back, while the other players wear plain black sashes and don simple digits across their shoulder blades. You can tell immediately Pat Conner is different.

The 87-year-old plays with the Granny Basketball League in Kansas, and she's the second-oldest in the group.

"I went to KU in the 50's and played intramural basketball there," Conner said. "Made 38 points, so I have 38 on my back."

She says she'd be a scholarship player with ease if they allowed women to play in that time period.

"She's got a mean hook shot," her daughter Debbie Puga said.

"I copied my hook shot after Clyde Lovellette," her mother smiled and added with confidence.

Granny Basketball is a slightly different sport than the basketball most are familiar with. In fact, the position names are almost completely flip-flopped.

Six players play on the court for each team and they are separated into three sections. The forwards are the offensive players and the only ones that can score. The centers are the facilitators and play only in the center section. The guards protect the rim and play only defense.

There's also a big catch: they have to wear the traditional uniforms from Iowa in 1920.

"Long-sleeve white shirts because we can't show any flesh," Conner said. "It's a foul if you have showing flesh. And the bloomers are from the 1920s. And the socks tell us what team we're on -- we're on the gray tornadoes."

Conner and Puga play together on the Gray Tornadoes. Conner says the idea of them playing together was enough inspiration to get in shape.

"At that time, I was in ill health and I said 'I'm going to get well, and I'm going to play,' and Debbie was in the same age range and I said 'it would be awesome if Debbie and I could play on the same team'."

Debbie, 60, feels the same way toward her mother and believes she's the inspiration for their fitness journey.

"Really it's her inspiring me. She was my middle school PE teacher and she's always been my role model for staying fit and healthy," she said. "So it's been a great experience to play with her."

So what's the secret to playing basketball at 87?

"Keep active," Conner says. "And if you're not feeling well, just find something physically active that you can get into and just do it."

The Granny Basketball League National Tournament tips off July 20th at Ambler Hall at the University of Kansas.