Franklin honored as an SEC Legend
Mississippi State assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Aqua Franklin stood among some of the top names in the SEC in early March as part of the league’s 2014 legends class that was honored during the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament in Duluth, Ga.
Franklin was selected for the honor following a stellar playing career at Texas A&M and the WNBA.
“It’s an honor hands down. I was joking with some because I was probably one of the youngest ones out there. It’s an honor to be out there with the legends from the other schools because they paved the way for me to be able to play the game,” Franklin said. “It’s truly an honor Coach (Gary) Blair and Coach (Kelly) Bond-White thought of me enough to make me their legend.”
Franklin started at point guard as a freshman and led the team to its first winning season in eight years and a 93-32 four-year record.
“Aqua is a legend to me and I am very proud of her,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “She was a tremendous player for us at Texas A&M and is very deserving to receive this honor.”
Franklin, who rated third in school history with 627 assists, was a two-time All-American and two-time All-Big 12 selection after guiding the Aggies to the postseason all four years, including the program’s first Elite Eight run.
“I came in with a great class that wasn’t highly ranked but was highly motivated. We thought we were all under the radar players. It really taught me how to start building a program and the type of players you need. It also showed me toughness,” Franklin said. “We went to the WNIT my first year, and we got better each year after that, making the NCAA Tournament every season. It’s very similar to our program here at Mississippi State. Coach Schaefer always talks about having the blueprint, and it’s great to be able to get both sides of it then as a player and now as a coach.”
In addition to knowing what it takes to build a championship college program, she also has first-hand experience of what it takes for a player to realize their dreams and play in the sport’s highest level, the WNBA.
Franklin was drafted 38th by the Sacramento Monarchs, and in her rookie season, helped the Monarchs to the opening round of the playoffs while developing her knowledge of the game alongside some of the world’s best players.
The opportunity to be a graduate assistant at her alma mater prepared her for coaching stints at Stephen F. Austin and Kansas. Then the opportunity came for her to be reunited with Schaefer and associate head coach Johnnie Harris in Starkville.
“Johnnie has been a mentor to me, teaching me all I needed to know about coaching and recruiting,” she said. “Coach Schaefer had a hand in recruiting me and has watched me grow. He had a hand in me getting my first job and every one until now. I looked up to him as a father figure and the one I went to when I needed a straightforward answer. He’s the one I always called on whether it was playing in the WNBA, overseas or now in coaching.”
Working alongside her mentors, Franklin has helped the Bulldogs to their most successful season since the 2009-10 campaign. Earlier this season she took on the role of recruiting coordinator and helped the Bulldogs sign the nation’s 18th-ranked class.
“What we’re doing here at Mississippi Sate compares a lot to what we did at Texas A&M. What Aqua brought from a leadership role is really an intangible and something we’re looking for from our first recruiting class here,” Schaefer said. “It probably wasn’t easy for her early in her career, but as she developed she became a tremendous floor general.
“She will be a great head coach one day. She has been a tremendous assistant coach for several coaches in her young career,” he added. “She’s already had many experiences in her career and had a lot of success. We’re blessed to have her here at Mississippi State and really proud of her.”
Her impact has also been seen with the growth of point guards Katia May and Jerica James. A year after combining for 157 assists and 197 turnovers last season, the duo has 246 assists against 148 turnovers this season while compiling personal-best offensive campaigns.
“They’ve grown tremendously, and they want to be better,” Franklin said.
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