Earlier today, while doing research for a forthcoming project, I ran across the name Angela Aycock. I will admit—because I did not grow up in the area, and have not followed women’s basketball as closely as perhaps I should—that I did not immediately know who she was. Aycock, when she graduated from Lincoln High School in the early 1990s, was the best female basketball player in the state, and arguably the best in the country. The 6-foot-2 guard went on to play for the University of Kansas, and she starred there, too—she was co-Player of the Year as a junior and an All-American as a senior.
Nothing unusual, so far. Aycock went on to play professionally, first in the now-defunct American Basketball League, and then overseas (Italy, France, South Korea, Spain, Greece) and, very briefly, the WNBA, playing just 12 total games over the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
In 2002, she quit professional basketball for good. At some point, Aycock (raised Baptist) had converted to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). She became a nun and took on the name Sister Paula. She was first cloistered at a convent in Bluffton, a hamlet in central Alberta, Canada. When her No. 12 was retired by Kansas in February 2003, she traveled from her home at the Protection of the Virgin Mary Convent at watched the ceremony from the stands. The crowd of some 16,000 at Allen Field House was told she could not attend because of her religious obligations, but she was there.
It was Sister Paula’s last public appearance, one that was arranged by her former coach, Marian Washington, over the course of several weeks, and even then was basically non-existent.
Not long after the ceremony, she transferred to a different convent. No one seems to know where she is now. Or, at least, no one is saying.
“God willing, many more young women will be inspired and challenge themselves as well as others not to limit themselves, but strive for excellence in all things,” she said in a press release at the time.