Not everyone has a vision for themselves growing up, with many finding it difficult to decide which career path to follow that aligns with their particular passions. For Kansas women's basketball assistant coach Aqua Franklin, it was never a doubt that basketball would be a big part of her future.
“It was always a dream. I never thought that I would be honored in such a way,” Franklin said.
Franklin was recently inducted into the Texas A&M Athletics Hall of Fame, where she played point guard from 2005-08. While in College Station, Texas, Franklin led the Aggies to numerous accomplishments, becoming the first Aggie to become a two-time All-American.
She also led the team to both a Big 12 regular season and tournament championship, as well as Texas A&M's first Elite Eight appearance in program history.
The day Franklin received word of her induction was surreal, to say the least.
“Getting the phone call that coach (Gary) Blair had nominated me for the Hall of Fame and that I was going to be inducted, I was speechless. The first call I made was to my mother because that was the person that pushed me the most and showed me how to work," Franklin said.
Even with this recognition being for individual accomplishments, Franklin attributes her successes as an Aggie to the team around her.
“It means a lot," Franklin said. "It just shows that hard work pays off, and I owe it all to my teammates because I think that they were probably more talented, but they allowed me to lead, being the floor general, being a point guard. Having them present was great, so it was an unbelievable feeling."
During her time as an Aggie, Franklin led Texas A&M to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, in what was the start of 13 straight trips, a streak that is still active today. Not only did Franklin lead the team to multiple appearances in the big dance, but also to a legacy of winning, posting a 93-39 record in her time at College Station.
Even with these accomplishments, Franklin and others regarded Texas A&M as a "football school" prior to her time on campus. After she left, her team and the teams after her "totally turned the wheels," she said.
After her playing days at Texas A&M, Franklin has had two stints with Kansas, as an assistant coach from 2011-12 and the assistant head coach since 2015.
Now at a place with basketball tradition steeped in its roots, Franklin is appreciative of what being with Kansas means.
“Being here at Kansas now for the second time is an unbelievable feeling because everything here is about basketball," Franklin said. "Being at a place where James Naismith, Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Pierce and all the greats were is a great feeling. (The fact) I get to drive down Naismith Drive every day to get to my office is awesome."
Now in the coaching ranks, Franklin said she tries to impart wisdom from her playing days to the current Kansas team. However, the impact she has on her players reaches far beyond the basketball court, according to freshman guard Brooklyn Mitchell.
“She’s been a mentor for me. Her and I talk quite often,” Mitchell said. “She helps me in practice with a lot of plays and defensive breakdowns.”
Franklin averaged almost five assists a game for her career at Texas A&M, just one of the indicators of her ability to lead and get others involved. Her players take notice to her commitment to them and their growth as both players and people.
“It’s an honor playing for Coach Aqua," Mitchell said. "I feel like her and I have a lot in common, like speed and other things."
Mitchell is new to the program, just now being brought under the tutelage of Franklin. For the more experienced players on the team, such as senior guard Christalah Lyons, the impact is even greater.
“She’s more like a second mother to me," Lyons said. "She makes sure that off the court that I’m okay, taking care of my body and things like that."
With the relationships that Franklin has built while at Kansas, it comes as no surprise that her players were beyond overjoyed to hear of Franklin's induction.
“My immediate reaction was ‘I’m going to be playing under a Hall of Fame coach,'" Mitchell said. “That’s something to be proud of and something I really take ownership in.”
During her time in Lawrence, Franklin has made every effort to be apart of the game that she loves. Yet, Franklin said that she wouldn't be where she is today without her time as an Aggie.
“I miss my teammates, my family, my A&M family," Franklin said. "The support there was unbelievable. When you walk on campus you feel like you’ve been there for years. That to me is the biggest thing.”
—Edited by Nichola McDowell