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You didn’t hear it from her, but veteran Barton College head women’s basketball coach Wendee Saintsing has been inducted into a pair of collegiate sports halls of fame in the last seven months.
The latest ceremony occurred on April 29, when Saintsing was inducted into the High Point University Athletics Hall of Fame.
Also last October, Saintsing, also Barton’s senior women’s administrator, was enshrined into the Barton College Athletics Hall of Fame.
“Just very blessed,” Saintsing reacted to the acclaim.
She termed the High Point recognition as “a nice honor” and, the Barton accolade as “unexpected for sure.”
Barton Athletics Director Todd Wilkinson congratulated Saintsing, noting: “She has been inducted into two halls of fame within the last year. That’s pretty sweet!
“She didn’t even tell me about the High Point one. I found out from her sister.”
Saintsing chuckled and said: “I told her not to tell anybody, but she didn’t listen to me.”
SENIOR ROLE CHANGED
The Greensboro native was part of the Panthers’ 1977-78 women’s basketball team which was deemed hall-of-fame worthy for capturing the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Division II National Championship.
The High Point team posted a 30-8 record and ended its championship run on a 20-game winning streak. The Panthers, Carolina Conference tournament and AIAW Region 8 champions, defeated South Carolina State, 92-88, in the title game.
Saintsing pointed out the team is the only one from High Point to ever win a national championship and the entire team was inducted after a couple of players had previously been inducted.
The championship came in Saintsing’s senior season — when she gave up her final season as a player to be an assistant coach for new head coach Wanda Briley. The move was recommended by Saintsing’s previous coach and endorsed by Athletics Director Jerry Steele.
“Not at first,” Saintsing said of her willingness to abandon her role as a player. “I really wanted to play. That was the toughest decision I’ve ever made.
“But I knew how to get things done and I knew about the budget, transportation, etc. I definitely could help (Briley) out. It’s probably the best decision I have ever made as far as the experience, growing and learning as an individual and a professional.”
The championship came in the midst of three consecutive years that High Point’s basketball team qualified for the national tournament. Saintsing was also a volleyball assistant coach her senior year and that team finished ninth nationally. She also played volleyball.
“I really enjoyed my time at High Point,” Saintsing said. “A lot of things stood out and, as far as my playing career, it was a good experience. It was really nice to see everybody and catch up after 40 years.”
At Barton, the 62-year-old Saintsing has functioned as the women’s head basketball coach for 30 years.. She also served as head women’s volleyball coach for 18 seasons.
She owns a 524-318 career basketball coaching record. Saintsing’s 2018-19 team posted a 24-6 overall record and 16-4 showing in the NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas. The Lady Bulldogs claimed a share of the regular-season title and earned a berth to the Division II Southeast Regional tournament in Anderson, South Carolina.
Saintsing has led Barton to eight appearances in the national tournament and her teams have produced 20 or more wins 24 different seasons.
“I was speechless when Coach (Gary) Hall told me,” Saintsing remarked. “It was unexpected for sure.
“It’s always a great honor to be honored amongst peers who were successful before you. It’s kind of weird to be in the same realm (with individuals with which she converses with before about every game.)”
She didn’t anticipate spending 30-plus years at Barton (since 1987) but she expects the Wilson campus to be her final professional stop.
“When I took the job, I thought I would be here 4-5 years and move on. But we have been so successful,” Saintsing explained. “A lot of good athletes came in, and I wanted to be an impact and a positive influence on some kids’ lives. Time went by so fast and you don’t realize you have been here that long.
“I want to leave a legacy and a good reputation and history of what the program has done. I want to be some kind of footprint on the program.”
Saintsing also wants 600 victories.
“I have 524 wins and I want 600,” she declared. “And if I’m not ready to retire at 600, I may go for 700.”
Upon retirement, Saintsing plans to return to Greensboro, become involved in volunteer or missionary work or possibly join her twin sister and her husband at the beach.