Sandiette Trenia Tillis-Hoard Inducted into TABC Hall of Fame
By Greg Ritchie
GRAPELAND – Grapeland native and Sandiette legend Trenia Tillis-Hoard was inducted into the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame at a ceremony held May 20, 2023. Tillis-Hoard was one of eight Texas legends so honored by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches. (TABC)
Tillis-Hoard is well known in Houston County for leading the Sandiettes to back-to-back state tournament appearances in 1987-88 and 1988-89. Trenia averaged 25 points and 16 rebounds per game as a freshman, 29 points and 18 rebounds as a sophomore, 35 points and 15 rebounds as a junior, and 27 points and 12 rebounds as a senior. She was a four-time All-State selection and was named Miss Texas Basketball in 1989.
Tillis-Hoard – who recently spoke at First Christian Memorial Church in Grapeland – is now a basketball coach at Tyler Junior College (TJC) and led the Apache Ladies to their first National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) championship title last year.
Raised in Grapeland below the poverty line, Tillis-Hoard faced a number of challenges, including discouragement regarding her future as a college student. On the scholastic aptitude test (SAT) that all students were required to take to gauge their readiness for higher education, Tillis-Hoard – who aspired to play basketball while working toward her degree – scored a 700, the minimum score at which college acceptance was still possible.
“I had a counselor that said, ‘You only got a 700; I don’t think you’ll be successful in college,’” Tillis-Hoard recalled. “But that’s the reason I tell y’all that my life is a ‘but God’ moment. That counselor said because of my 700, I wouldn’t be able to go to school. But God said, ‘Go to college anyway.’”
As many others have learned on their own journeys, coming from a small town is sometimes enough to be a bit of a hindrance on its own.
“You know what people think about small towns,” Tillis-Hoard pointed out. “They think we’re a bunch of country hicks; we got some straw in our mouth; we got on cowboy hats and boots and say, ‘Yee-haw!’ But we’re not like that. I don’t see straw in anybody’s mouth. Everybody thinks when you’re from a small town that that is the reason and the rationale for you not being able to go out and have an amazing life.”
Tillis-Hoard fondly recalled the large amount of support that she felt from her fellow Grapeland residents.
“When I played basketball in Grapeland, everybody came out to watch us play basketball,” she said. “Everybody supported us. And everybody took their time to sow a seed, fertilize us, and nurture us so that we believed we could be greater than we were. We may not have been the most talented team out there, but God put people in our lives to grow us, to sow us, and to make us believe.”
“Everybody says, ‘You’re the face of Grapeland,’” she said. “I’m worried more about disappointing y’all than disappointing anyone. You’re my hometown, and I want everybody to say, ‘This is Grapeland. This is what Grapeland’s made of.’”
**With contributions from Messenger Special Reporter Sarah Naron