Donna Yanda has been a fixture in the Yukon community for many years.
However, when people bring up her name, most think of “Donna Yanda, the owner and director of Yanda & Son Funeral Home and Cremation Services” or “Donna Yanda, the Yukon city council member,” but not many think of “Donna Yanda, the former Oklahoma State University women’s basketball star.”
Part of that is because when she was draining jump shots for the Cowgirls, her name was Donna Ridling, but the majority of the reason is because Yanda doesn’t seek out fame or recognition for her accomplishments while going to school in Stillwater.
Yanda was a four-year starter for the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team from 1974-1978. She holds the record for the most points scored in a single game (51 points against Tulsa Feb. 24, 1978, as a senior) and the most field goals made in a single game (24 field goals in that same game against Tulsa).
The 5-foot-9 forward was a sharp-shooter from the outside, but she played for the Cowgirls before there was a three-point line, so her point total could have been much higher if she had played with the modern-day rules.
Yanda is 11th all-time in Oklahoma State women’s basketball history in points scored with 1,573. She is seventh all-time in points per game for her career with 15.9 and she is 11th all-time in field goals made with 543. For her career, Yanda shot 45 percent from the field.
During her four-year career in Stillwater, Yanda scored 30 or more points five times. She also showed tremendous durability. She only missed two games in four years because of badly sprained ankles.
Her senior campaign at OSU was the 1977-1978 season. It was her best all-around year. Yanda is fourth all-time in field goals made in that season with 264. She is fifth all-time in points scored in that season with 617 and she is eighth all-time in points per game that season with 20.9.
Yanda was not just a scorer for the Cowgirls. She also was a fierce rebounder. She is seventh all-time in rebounds per game for her career with 7.6 and 13th all-time in total rebounds with 603.
Yanda began playing basketball in fourth grade. She was born and raised in Sentinel and said she fell in love with basketball from the moment she started playing.
“I grew up in a small town and the big sports there were basketball, baseball and softball,” Yanda said. “We didn’t have football. All I wanted to do was be outside playing basketball all the time.”
Yanda began playing basketball competitively in fifth and sixth grade.
“I had really good coaches along the way,” Yanda said. “And I had a very encouraging and supporting family. I grew up on a farm, so we had that work ethic instilled in us at a very young age. I was blessed to be surrounded by really good players and that helped a lot with our success we had.”
That success manifested itself into a state championship run in 1973 when Yanda was a junior in high school. Sentinel won the Class A championship, and she was a key part in the team’s run to a title. Her teams made it to the state tournament all three seasons that she played on the high school team.
“We had a very demanding coach,” Yanda said. “He wanted to bring out the best in us and he did that. We won the state championship in the fairgrounds Arena in Oklahoma City and that was a great experience.”
One of the adjustments Yanda had to make before she moved on to play college basketball was the switch from 6-on-6 to 5-on-5. At that time, high school girls basketball was playing 6-on-6.
“It wasn’t a huge adjustment for me,” Yanda said. “We had to play a little more defense when we went to 5-on-5 in college but I was a shooter and that didn’t change at all.”
At the time, the recruiting process for women was different than it is today. There were no scholarship opportunities for women. Several colleges reached out to Yanda about playing basketball for them but she had always wanted to go to Oklahoma State. She had made the decision to attend school at OSU when the women’s basketball coach called her and asked her if she was interested in playing hoops for the Cowgirls. She started immediately as a true freshman.
“It was a win/win situation for me,” Yanda said. “I was able to go to OSU for school and I had the opportunity to play basketball all four years I was there.”
The NCAA started to allow athletic scholarships to women when Yanda was a sophomore, so she was one of the first women to receive a scholarship at Oklahoma State. It wasn’t a full ride, but it helped pave the way for future female athletes across the nation.
“It was a start to the process,” Yanda said. “We laid the groundwork for what they have today. It was challenging at first when I to OSU. I had 29 in my graduating class in high school and then I get to Oklahoma State and we have 600 students in our speech class. The first semester was an adjustment, but it was a great experience.”
Scholarships weren’t the only improvements Yanda saw during her career in Stillwater. In her first three years, when they traveled, they took vans but her senior year they were allowed to fly to certain places.
Also, her freshman season, the women’s hoops team had to play in the Colvin Center, but her sophomore year, they were able to start playing in the historic Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Yanda said her two most memorable games came against in-state opponents.
“The Tulsa game where I scored 51 points and then I think I played my best overall game against OU in the Lloyd Noble Center when I was a senior,” Yanda said.
Yanda received her degree from Oklahoma State in journalism and public relations, but she went into insurance sales after college until she met her future husband, Anton Yanda III. The couple got married in 1988 but she had started to help out at Yanda & Son Funeral Home and Cremation Services in 1987. She continued to help part time until 1992, when she started working full time in the funeral business.
Anton passed away in 2005 and she took over as owner and director of Yanda & Son Funeral Home and Cremation Services. At the time, she did not have a license, so at 49, she decided to go back to school at the University of Central Oklahoma to the four-year funeral services program and receive her license.
In 2013, Yanda became a Yukon city council member. She came to Yukon in 1998 and is supportive of the local athletes.
“My husband was born and raised here,” Yanda said. “I am very supportive of Yukon and Yukon athletics. It’s a very special place with tremendous people.”
Yanda said she makes it back to Stillwater on occasion for reunions with her former teammates and old friends.
“We are all proud that we helped pave the way for young women in sports today,” Yanda said. “What they have now is incredible.”
Yanda gives credit to her family for instilling the work ethic in her to be successful.
“I have had one of the most supportive families anyone has ever had,” Yanda said. “They are the foundation for the success I was able to have at OSU and in the business world. They taught me to never give up on anything. I love what I do, I love Yukon and I love helping people.”