Senior Spotlight: Kelly Wong is a Quick Study in Mustang Backcourt

Senior Spotlight: Kelly Wong is a Quick Study in Mustang Backcourt

Dean's List Honoree Has Gone From Walk-On to Scholarship Guard at Cal Poly

More than 25,000 women and men are student-athletes around the California Community College Athletic Association, comprised of 108 campuses throughout the state.

Each year among that group, two individuals — or 0.00008 percent — are chosen for its Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award. Kelly Wong was one of the two in 2015.

Announced as the CCCAA Women's Scholar-Athlete of the Year in February 2016 while finishing her associate degree at City College of San Francisco, Wong is now on track to graduate from Cal Poly in the Fall of 2018 in Graphic Communication.

Additionally, every quarter since making the transition to a four-year university, Wong has earned Dean's List honors — all while playing basketball for the Mustangs.

"I just try to take everything that I do and make it something I'm proud of — whether it's on the court or in the classroom," she says of balancing sports and academics. "It's also helpful when you enjoy what you're doing, and my classes are also a lot of fun."

Wong played in 26 games as a Cal Poly junior, mostly at point guard, including three starts midway through the winter when starter Dye Stahley was temporarily sidelined due to an injury.

Awarded a scholarship after initially walking-on to the squad, Wong will likely see more time at the shooting guard spot as a senior after playing 8.3 minutes per game in 2016-17.

"It was really exciting to be able to do that," Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh said of putting Wong on scholarship prior to her senior season. "She's very intelligent on the court. She learns quickly and has the ability to make the right play."

"I think the next part of her growth in the last six months has been to be a little bit more of a threat offensively," Mimnaugh continued. "Because she played point guard at the JC level, she was used to distributing a lot, and we settled her a little bit more into the 2-guard position for need purposes, and she's responded brilliantly to that. She's really taken opportunities to knock down 3s for us, she's always cutting and making plays off the ball."

As a sophomore at CCSF, Wong captained a deep Rams squad to a state Final Four appearance with all-around averages of 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.

"It's been different," Wong says of playing more off the ball, "just because I feel like at the 1, you're more distributing, setting things up and running the floor, whereas at the 2 it's more looking to attack and drive and kick-out more. So it has to do with switching my mindset a little bit and trying to be more aggressive."

Also a graduate of Lowell High School in San Francisco (where she was the AAA City Player of the Year as a senior), and the daughter of San Francisco State and USF alumni, Wong says she'll likely move back to the Bay Area after graduation following her Senior Project in the spring.

For a recent team exercise, each Mustang was assigned to create a binder folder for a teammate. Kelly smiles when remembering how she put her GRC courses to use in crafting hers for fellow senior Lynn Leaupepe, incorporating the Samoan flag into the design.

She also recalls Senior Night from a year ago as one of her favorite memories. "It was pretty cool just seeing everyone's families together," Kelly says. "It feels like we're all a big family, so that's always fun getting together."

Regardless of wherever the future takes her, for now Wong is immersed in life as a Mustang.

"I really value her decision-making ability," Mimnaugh says. "The intelligence she brings to the floor. Her ability to communicate with people and have it be in an effective manner. I really appreciate her thoughtfulness and maturity on the court."

By Donovan Aird
Photos © Matt Aguirre & David E. Holmes

Mustang seniors will be featured on GoPoly.com throughout this season. After opening the season at San Francisco on Nov. 10, Cal Poly will return to Mott Athletics Center to host its home opener against Grand Canyon at 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, before welcoming USF and Robert Morris for the #ShareSLO Holiday Beach Classic, set for Nov. 24-26.