It was in 2016, more than a decade after her career at Quinnipiac University ended, and Queen Edwards-Smith was chosen by her alma mater to be honored at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, as part of "The MAAC Experience," a way for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to recognize its all-time athletes. It's something, among her innumerable memories as a Hall of Fame basketball player at Hillhouse High School and Quinnipiac, that Queen - nicknamed Queenie during her playing career - will never forget.
"The village that helped raise me all showed up to see all the hard work and love poured into me being acknowledged," Queen said of that day. "Their presence meant more to me than the award itself. They were all part of my journey and success."
Queen graduated from Quinnipiac in 1996 and was elected to the school's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010. A 5-foot-5 point guard, she finished with 1,207 points, 594 rebounds, 476 assists and 394 steals. Queen cracked the starting lineup as a sophomore and started 74 of her final 76 games, including a sophomore season in which she averaged 16.7 points per game to go with a career-best 156 assists. She was named the three-time Defensive Player of the Year by the Northeast-10 Conference, of which Quinnipiac was then a member - the only three-time winner of that distinction in league history - and still ranks second in program history for steals and third in assists. The team was coached by Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Dixon, who will present Queen with that same honor tonight.
"He is my friend, coach, mentor and godfather to my daughter. He has known me the longest and has been an integral part of my life," Queen said. "I would say that my high school coaches and William Dixon had the greatest influence on my career. They showed me the importance of a coach's role in a young person's life, that coaching requires more than X's and O's and how to develop athletes that can be productive citizens in the world. From my experiences, I learned how to give back a little of what I received as a player."
Queen went on to serve as head girls' basketball coach at Wilbur Cross High School (1996-2007) and as assistant women's coach at Yale University for four seasons beginning in 2007, including a WNIT bid in 2011. She now works for the Rockhill (South Carolina) School District and makes her home in Waxhaw, North Carolina. She has been honored extensively for her public service, including the Seton Elm Ivy Award (2001), NYSP Silvio O. Conte Award of Excellence (2002), Secretary of State Public Service Award (2005), New Haven Network Partners in Education Award (2006), New Haven Rotary Club Vocational Service Award (2007) and Farnham Neighborhood House Polly Sweeten Excellence in Sports Award (2011).
A New Haven native, Queen is a 1991 graduate of Hillhouse, where she competed in volleyball, girls' basketball and outdoor track, selected to all-state teams in basketball and track. She was elected "Ms. Hillhouse" and was voted class president. She was named to the Hillhouse Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011 and to the New Haven Tap Off Club Hall of Fame in 2007.
"Basketball is very special to me for so many reasons," Queen said. "Basketball has developed and shaped me into the person I am today. It has opened so many doors for me and allowed me to see the world."