Catching Up...With Tonya Burns-Cohrs

Tonya Burns-Cohrs is an Indiana girl at heart, but the former Iowa State star basketball player loved Ames so much she took her honeymoon there. Find out what she's up to here on this CN feature.

Tonya Burns-Cohrs is an Indiana girl at heart, but the former Iowa State star basketball player loved Ames so much she took her honeymoon there.


"I got married at 28 and was out of the house and paid for my own wedding," she said. "The wedding was in July (in Indiana), and wanted to go back to the school. I didn't think we needed to go to the beach because it was July, and it was already hot. We went there, and one of my teammates was still there, and we got to see her. It was a good memory."


Burns, who grew up In Leo, Ind., created plenty of memories for herself on the hardwood.  When Burns-Cohrs' eligibility was up after the 1984-85 season she was the Cyclones' all-time leading scorer with 1,789. That mark stood until 1998 when JaymeOlson became the school's all-time leading scorer with

1,799. Burns-Cohrs is now No.5 on the list.


Burns-Cohrs, a center, averaged 15.7 points for her career, which is the second-best in school history next to all-time leading scorer Angie Welle, who averaged 16.3. in her four years. Burns-Cohrs also averaged 8.1 points per game. She became the first ISU women's basketball player to have her number retired and was inducted into the Iowa State Hall of Fame in 2000.


"(The retired number) was very special," Burns-Cohrs said. "Stepping on the floor at Hilton Coliseum again and seeing that jersey hanging from the rafters was a thrill. All the honors I have been blessed with have been a thrill, but having my number retired and (being inducted into the Hall of Fame) were the two best."


After a stellar prep career, it was inevitable that Burns-Cohrs was going to play at the collegiate level, it was just a matter of where. Burns-Cohrs admitted Iowa State wasn't her first choice.


"Indiana was my first choice but they had a new coach and there wasn't any scholarships," she said. "When I was recruited you had to audition, so I auditioned at

Indiana, Ball State, Dayton and Florida.

"I had visited Ames before that, and I knew I wanted to go there and not Florida. I just felt comfortable (in Ames), and I like the whole atmosphere. I knew it was the place for me. I am glad I made that decision."


While Burns-Cohrs' Cyclone career was filled with many individual highlights, the team struggled. The Cyclones didn't have a winning season in any of those four seasons. During the 1983-84 season ISU was a miserable 0-14 in Big 8 play and 4-24, overall. The best finish the Cyclones had while Burns-Cohrs was on the squad was 12-16 her senior season.


"One of the reasons I went to (ISU) was the big recruiting class," she said. "I thought by the time I was a junior or a senior we would be good. Well, I was the only one left out of six or seven. Between homesickness and injuries, by the time I was a senior I was the only one left in that class.

"It was kind of disappointing. It would have been nice to win. That is always the goal. I was never disappointed; we didn't accomplish the goal, though."


After her career was over at ISU, Burns-Cohrs was a student coach for the Cyclones for a year and student taught at Ames High school, where she helped start the volleyball program. After a year of playing in the short-lived NWBA professional league in Richmond, Va., Burns-Cohrs headed back to Indiana to begin a coaching career. She was the head varsity girls coach at Fort Wayne Northside High school for 13 years. After her tenure there, she became the coach at Woodlan High School in Woodburn, Ind. where she has been for six seasons. She won one conference title at Northside and has guided Woodlan to the sectional finals the last two seasons. She also guided her squad to the conference championship game this season.


Even though her husband, John, encourages her, Burns-Cohrs doesn't share her collegiate success with her players.


"My husband tells them more than I do," Burns-Cohrs said. "I guess I don't like to talk about my self. My husband gets upset and tells me the team needs to know what I have done. "If I don't tell them he will. One girl who is graduating got on the Internet and found out all of that stuff. She said, ‘Why didn't you tell us?' I guess I am just not a bragger. I guess I am just humble."


She may need prodding to share her exploits openly, but Burns-Cohrs said she has great memories of her playing days and still roots for the Cyclones in any sport when they are on television.


"We didn't win any NCAA Tournaments or anything, but I have fond memories of my teammates, coaches, trainers and fans," she said. "We didn't have a lot of fans, but we had some die-hards."





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