Alumna leads team to undefeated season, tournament play
Winning is no new feat for University of Missouri–St. Louis alumna Deena Applebury. As head coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., she led her team through a historical 2011-12 season of 30 straight wins and into NCAA Division III tournament play.
Applebury earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1999 and master’s degree in secondary education with an emphasis in physical education in 2003 from UMSL.
The Eagles undefeated season began with Applebury giving birth to her first child, Zack, just days into the season. Taking only a week off, she returned to the court to be with her team.
“She’s amazing and so dedicated,” said Sharon Buchanan-McClure, Applebury’s aunt and one of her biggest supporters. “It’s fun to watch her coach. The reason she’s been as successful as she has, is because she bonds with her players. She has discipline and high expectations for them and requires them to work very hard, but she’s there for them as well.”
As a member of the UMSL women’s basketball team, then known as the Riverwoman, Applebury averaged 19.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game and posted 534 points her senior year.
“The best memory I have as a Riverwoman was beating perennial power house Washington University in St. Louis in 1995,” she said.
Although this post-season ended for Applebury and her team with a 68-45 fall to George Fox (Newberg, Ore.) University on March 10, she received her fifth Coach of the Year title from the Capital Athletic Conference, and third from Region Coach of the Year title from D3Hoops.com and Russell Athletic WBCA. But she didn’t always know she wanted to coach.
“I went to UMSL thinking I would be an accountant and soon changed my mind as I decided I needed a more physically active career,” Applebury said. “My dad always wanted me to be a coach so I decided to take some education classes in preparation for a coaching career and found great enjoyment.”
Applebury’s career record at UMW of 218-47 is punctuated by a 183-25 mark over the past seven seasons. But it’s not just about winning and recognition.
“I want each player to be their self, find a way to positively contribute to the program, play at the highest level they can individually, while genuinely supporting one another and to challenge their self in the classroom each semester,” she said. “I want each team to find its own identity, build incredible chemistry, compete confidently each day, and to have no regrets at the end of the season.”
She hopes she can inspire her players, and make a lasting impact on their lives.
“Probably the most important things I hope my players learn from me are self-confidence, to dream big, the work ethic required to reach their dreams and to never make excuses,” Applebury said. “On the court, I want to increase their basketball IQ so when their playing days are over they have the ability to give back to young girls through coaching.”
She looks back at her time at UMSL fondly and remembers that UMSL taught her how to succeed.
“I learned that without cohesion and leadership there can be no success,” Applebury said. “Team chemistry is extremely important and winning is an attitude that you can learn when taught properly.”
When looking at her career, she is thankful for many things, among them are reaching the Final Four and being named the Russell Athletic 2007 Division III National Coach of the Year. And she’s not done. When she thinks ahead to the next 30 years, she has two main goals.
“To win at least one national championship,” she said. “Plus, I would like to see many more of my players get into the coaching field so that when I retire I can go watch them all coach.”
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