At halftime during a basketball game her freshman year at Walnut Grove High School, Tammy Erwin recalled receiving heartbreaking news.
The 14-year-old’s grandfather, who she said had been one of her biggest supporters, had died. In the locker room, as the team celebrated coming from behind to take an early lead against rival Fair Grove, Erwin’s coach broke the news to her.
“From that moment on, I realized that you never knew when you’d have your last chance to share a moment with the people that you love,” she said.
Erwin, who later became a coach and is now the superintendent at Humansville R-4 School District, said that realization galvanized her into action.
She returned to the court, launching a high school career that saw the star athlete score 2,513 points for the Lady Tigers and earn all-state selection three times.
“At that moment, I could have given up and felt sorry for myself, or I could have continued playing, and that’s what I did,” she said.
Erwin’s accomplishments on the court, both in high school and in college at Southwest Baptist University and College of the Ozarks, will be recognized later this month at a Missouri Sports Hall of Fame luncheon, where the now-administrator will receive designation as a member of the MSHOF’s 2019 Filbert Five.
According to a MSHOF news release, the Filbert award is named for the late Gary Filbert, a legendary basketball coach who was known for assisting Missouri Tigers coach Norm Stewart and later directing the Show-Me State Games, an annual Olympic-style competition for amateur athletes held each year in Columbia.
According to the release, Erwin’s career point total set records.
“That total was the sixth-best in the history of Missouri high school girls basketball upon graduation, and it also stood as the school record — boys or girls — until boys basketball player Logan Thomazin broke it in 2018,” the release stated.
Erwin said the record came as the result of many hours in front of the home basketball goal. She said she grew up in a family that was sports oriented and played travel ball nearly year-round.
“I was lucky,” she said. “My parents knew the value of hard work and pushed me and kept me practicing. I’ve had a basketball in my hand for as long as I can remember.”
Erwin said her high school teammates were also a critical part of her record-setting career.
“When you’re a freshman averaging 22 points per game, your teammates can either love you for that or they cannot, so I was very blessed,” she said.
According to the release, Erwin earned varsity letters all four years of high school, competing in volleyball, basketball and softball.
She led the Ozarks in scoring her sophomore and senior seasons and was selected to the Missouri Basketball Coaches All-Star Game, the release stated.
She went on to play one season of basketball at Southwest Baptist University before starting at College of the Ozarks.
There, she was a two-year letter winner and later served as a student assistant under 2008 MSHOF inductee George Wilson.
During her high school and college careers, Erwin underwent four knee surgeries, the release stated.
Looking back, Erwin said she can see how her time on the court shaped her into an educator and administrator.
“I think I really learned how to come through adversity,” she said. “In basketball, some days you’re going to hit everything and some days you’re not going to hit anything. We’re going to have days like that, so you learn how to get up and pick people up when they might be struggling.”
The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame luncheon is at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11, at the Oasis Hotel & Convention Center in Springfield.
The MSHOF will also honor late basketball coach Charlie Spoonhour, naming the coach a Missouri Sports Legend.
Longtime New Haven coach Ray Steinhoff, former Lincoln High School and Missouri Southern State University standout Anita Rank Oplotnik, the Marshfield High School girls basketball program and the Nixa High School boys basketball program will also be inducted.