CULVER — As a sports journalist, Patricia Babcock-McGraw doesn’t get many free nights to come watch her old team play.
She’s too busy covering for the Daily Herald in Chicago or broadcasting college and WNBA games with the Big Ten Network or on Comcast, and, as a result, she hasn’t had a chance to come down to watch her Lady Eagles play since she graduated in 1990.
But a special ceremony honoring the Culver Girls Academy alum and former Indiana Miss Basketball prior to the Eagles’ season-opener with Bethany Christian afforded just such an opportunity, as well as a chance to catch up with some old friends Friday.
“I’ve not been back in a long time, and I don’t think I’ve seen a game here since I played so this was very exciting for me, to see the team and the changes in the program,” said Babcock-McGraw. “I think (CGA head coach) Gary (Christlieb) has done a great job with the program; it’s a top-notch program. You’ve got girls that have the potential to go on to college and play. For me it was really kind of fun to see the level they’ve reached in the program and how much better they’ve gotten.”
“It was neat to see friends and former teachers and faculty members,” she continued. “It was just really touching and very humbling and honoring to have something like this happen for you. It’s not very often you get your jersey on the wall. It’s amazing, a really good feeling, and I’m just so glad I’m able to share it with my kids and my husband and my parents as well.”
If CGA basketball has taken a step forward since Babcock-McGraw’s time with the program, it hasn’t seen a player quite like her since.
She still tops the school’s all-time scoring list — for either boys or girls — with 2,199 career points with the Eagles, rating her 12th on the state’s career scoring list. She’s 19th on the Indiana high school single season scoring list with 725 points, a three-time AP All-State pick and was named a Parade All-American as well as a USA Today Indiana Player of the Year.
“I hope I kind of made people more aware of this program in general,” she said. “The Academy kind of gets a bad rep for high school sports, and I think that just being able to be competitive with the schools around here really kind of established a foundation for this program.”
Babcock-McGraw said her time at the Culver Academies gave her plenty of good memories to take with her, specifically recalling the team’s two sectional titles under the single-class system in 1987 and 1990 as well as its 1988 Bi-County Tournament championship. But she said the program also helped instill in her the values that she carried forward into her college career at Northwestern — where she was named second team All-Big Ten and the Wildcats’ MVP in 1994 — and into her life beyond.
“Always just doing things the right way. Such an emphasis on ethics and morals here and winning the right way, losing the right way, keeping your head held high, not being boastful or arrogant or being a poor sport. That’s a big thing that I took away,” she said.
Along with Friday’s pre-game ceremony, the school hosted a post-game reception in Babcock-McGraw’s honor Friday.
Her presence provided a chance for this year’s Lady Eagles to connect with their team’s history and to get a sense of their place in the wider tradition of the program.
“It was a big emotional night with Patricia coming back,” said CGA head coach Christlieb. “The kids had heard about her, but they never got to ever meet her. It was nice for them to get the opportunity to meet her and see what her legacy is for the school and the program. I thought that was really important.”