Former BIC star and grandmother chosen for NEA Hall of Fame
Every year during the Northeast Arkansas Invitational Tournament, officials recognize players and fans from the past. This year's honorees included a pair of Monette natives, who just happen to be grandmother and grandson.
Former Buffalo Island Center star Chip Layne, a four-time All-NEA selection, who led the Mustangs to three consecutive tournament titles during the early 1990s, joined grandmother, Billie Jack Layne, who was chosen for her continuous support since the tournament's inception in 1947.
Mrs. Layne, who turns 90 this month, was a long-time educator. "I first came to the NEA Tournament when I taught at Leachville in 1947. I have been to the tournament almost every year since then, so I have been lucky and blessed to see the NEA almost every year in its 70-year run. Watching all the great players over the years has been a thrill. I got to see my son, Skip Layne, play in the early '70s before watching my grandson, Chip, win three straight championships in the '90s. But best of all I've been able to watch my great-grandchildren play in the NEA. Taylor Layne and Ryan Austin helped Bay win an NEA championship while my great-granddaughter Whitlee Layne plays for the Lady Yellowjackets. These are third generation NEA players, and it's pretty hard to top that," Layne said.
Mrs. Layne, who taught for 37 years at Monette and Leachville, said other than winning the state basketball tournament, the most prized championship to win is the NEA. "People make plans for the holidays and for so many, that includes at least one trip to the NEA. It's a time when people come home and have a common meeting place at the tournament. It is really a Northeast Arkansas treasure and something we can all call our own," Layne said.
Chip Layne still has fond memories of his playing days and ranks fourth all-time among the leading scorers in tournament history. "The NEA Tournament holds so many memories. Being the first team to win three straight was very special, but being recognized with my grandmother is hard to beat. I would have to say my best memory right now would be getting to watch my son Taylor and my daughter Whitlee play. The NEA has such rich tradition. It's a one of a kind atmosphere for family and friends to watch their favorite team compete and for the casual to die-hard basketball fan to come watch great local basketball action. I am honored to be recognized," Layne said.