SANDY CREEK — Terri Haynes has long been considered a trailblazer for girls basketball in the area and is still making history for Sandy Creek 30 years after her tragic death in a car accident.
Haynes was recently named as an inductee into the fourth annual North Country Sports Hall of Fame class, becoming the first individual athlete from the Comets to gain induction into the prestigious group of decorated area athletes. The induction ceremony details are to be determined.
The 1984 Sandy Creek graduate was a five-time league all-star for high school basketball and went on to play the sport for Division I James Madison and later transferred to help Canisius launch its Division I women’s basketball program in 1986.
“Like many of your top performers, she was self-motivated and very driven,” said Wayne McDougal, the former longtime Sandy Creek girls basketball coach who guided Haynes, his niece, during her tenure.
“In her time it was a little tougher on women, they didn’t have the same opportunities that the men did, or that respect in terms of getting gym time and recognition, and in pickup games, she was sometimes treated rather poorly when she played with the men and boys,” McDougal added. “With her hard work, she eventually made it so they couldn’t put someone weak on her or else they would get beat. She had things like that to overcome, as did all women of that time coming up as kind of the pioneers, and she just became a good ball player.”
Haynes finished her illustrious high school career with 2,087 points, which stood as a Section 3 record until 2006 and still ranks among the top 10. Her point total stands as the most in Frontier League history, all before the inclusion of the 3-point line for high school girls basketball.
Haynes — described as a feared slasher and strong outside shooter — also garnered a medal in the Empire State games for basketball and was named among the top 50 local athletes by the Watertown Daily Times during a series produced in 2009.
“She showed a lot of girls what they were capable of doing and put a high bar out there,” McDougal said. “Those that played on the team with her got better, and the ones that were younger had that role model and the fact that Terri did get some notoriety by going to the Empire State Games.”
Haynes accepted a scholarship to play for Division I James Madison but after injuries lessened her playing time, she decided to transfer to Canisius to help their program transition to Division I.
She finished with 558 career points for the Golden Griffins and started all 26 games as a senior co-captain in the 1988-89 campaign, scoring 10.5 points per game to go with 88 rebounds and 77 assists.
Canisius later named its annual “team hustle,” award in honor of Haynes, which McDougal believes is a fitting tribute given her unmatched work ethic.
“I was a pretty hard-driving coach, but I was just amazed by some of the things that she could do,” McDougal said. “I know how hard she worked. I know she would go down cellar and handle a basketball in the dark, things like that, constantly working on her skills, and she was a good athlete in other sports, too.”
He added: “She was maybe not gifted so much with speed or height or any great physical attributes, a lot of it was learned attributes and perseverance, and just playing hard all the time.”
Sandy Creek athletic director Mike Stevens was a classmate to Haynes throughout their time in the district, and said she was lauded as an athlete but also one of the warmest, friendliest personalities in their class.
“She was always just a very happy person and that’s what I remember about her, she was always smiling, always laughing,” Stevens said. “You talk about turning on your game face, she’s on the court and it’s like, holy macro she’s going to tear people apart. And then off the court, she was just so pleasant to everybody, and it wasn’t just to her peers and her teammates.”
Stevens also said that, much like McDougal, he recalled Haynes frequently putting unsuspecting boys in their place when she would show up to dominate pick-up games.
“I remember she would do pickup games with the boys to be more physical and more competitive, and after a while the guys were like: ‘Holy crap. We can’t keep up with her,’” Stevens said. “She would fit right in and if there wasn’t a game going on, she would challenge individuals. She always had a ball in her hand working at it.”
Haynes was getting started as an assistant coach in the Sandy Creek girls basketball program when she died tragically in an auto accident at age 23.
“I think she would have made an even bigger impact if she didn’t pass away at such an early age,” McDougal said. “We had plans on her taking over and maybe doing a lot of things with the girls program.”
Haynes is now immortalized in the Sandy Creek gym by a banner that hangs next to the American flag with her name and career point total. The homemade tribute was dedicated by a class from the 1990s and Stevens said that when the school renovated its gym, the American flag and the Haynes banner were the first two items he ensured were placed on the new wall.
“She’s honored up there every day that they’re playing, and she’s looking over the place,” Stevens said.
Haynes will join a pair of Sandy Creek softball teams in the North Country Sports Hall of Fame, the 1997 and 2004 state championship squads, which were collectively enshrined as the “Team of Honor,” last year.