If captains lead by example, then Captain KellyAnn Rooney ’14 has certainly earned her title this season with the women’s basketball team. Hustles? Check. Don’t blink when you’re watching her—she’s rarely in the same place for too long. Scores? Check. She has the highest scoring average on the team with 9.4 points per game. Calm at the free-throw line? Check. She’s shot 86.8% from the line and is leading the team with 66 free throws made. To put it simply: Captain Rooney is a leader.
This weekend, Rooney leads her eighth-seeded Cardinals (12-11, 3-7 NESCAC) into an opening-round NESCAC tournament matchup with top-seeded Tufts (23-1, 10-0 NESCAC). The senior sat down with The Argus to talk about her personal achievements, the tumultuous Cardinals’ season, and what she will miss most about basketball now that her career is coming to a close.
The Argus: Coming into this season, you had been a two-year starter. What have you taken from those past seasons that has allowed your final year to be your best?
KellyAnn Rooney: Being a two-year starter, I had a lot of experience on the court. I kind of just wanted to build on that and use my experience. Playing Williams and Amherst twice each year was definitely a good way to get good game experience against tough teams, and I just wanted to build on that and go out and play the best I could.
A: What does it mean to you to be a team captain?
KR: It means a lot. It’s definitely harder than I thought it would be. You’ve got to manage the team. But you also got to be on the same page as Coach [Kate Mullen], and you still got to worry about your game. It’s a lot better this year having everybody look up to you as opposed to having to be a supporting cast.
A: Head Coach Kate Mullen appointed you as captain. What are her best qualities as a head coach, and how has your relationship developed with her over the years?
KR: I’d say her support of everyone. She’s in it for the long haul. She supports you through anything. I feel like I could go to her with any type of problem, and she would help me out with it. She knows the game well. She knows what you can do for her on the court. She knows your strengths as a player and how to help you use them to your advantage. Since freshman year, our relationship has become a lot stronger. It’s really nice being able to talk to her. She’s a good listener. There’s kind of like a friendship there now.
A: There are two other senior captains on this team, Jenna Klaes ’14 and Amber Wessells ’14. What has their presence meant to you personally and to the team overall?
KR: Jenna and Amber are the best teammates. I really couldn’t ask for anyone better. We all came in freshman year with the same goals in mind. We just wanted to make the team better, and I think we’ve carried that through. We all have each other’s backs. I know they would be there for me through anything, on the court or off the court, and it’s meant a lot to have their support. As far as the team goes, we complement each other really well. It’s nice to have them to play off of. And I think it’s been a very good thing for us growing up as leaders and the team being able to see that—being a cohesive group.
A: Wesleyan began the season with a bang, winning its first five games of the campaign and seven of its first eight overall. What was the key to its success?
KR: We were just able to play as a team. We knew what we could do. Coming off kind of a disappointing end to last year, I think we wanted to build off of that. We just went out there and played as hard as we knew we could. And we knew we could do that as a team.
A: Wesleyan struggled against NESCAC opponents this season, going 3-10 in conference play. What was the reason for these struggles? Is it just one of those years where the conference is particularly strong?
KR: I wouldn’t say the conference is particularly strong. Losing Amber for the season was hard, and we have faced some really good three-point shooters. We have struggled with our guard play. It’s been something that we really haven’t been able to overcome.
A: For many players, the number they wear is very important to them. Is there a particular reason you wear number 11, and how long have you worn this number?
KR: Not really. It was just the first number I was given when I was eight years old, and it just kind of stuck.
A: You’re leading the team in scoring, averaging 9.4 points per game. What would you say has been the most satisfying part of your play this season?
KR: The most satisfying part has been how I have been able to put both ends of the court together. I’ve been able to translate my defensive success to the offensive end. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to make some big shots for my team.
A: You set your career high for points in a game (22) in a win against Univ. of St. Joseph back on Dec. 1. Then this past Saturday, Feb. 15, you dropped 22 points again in a tough loss to Williams. Is having that kind of performance in your final collegiate regular-season game a silver lining of sorts despite not coming out on top?
KR: I guess so. Obviously, I’m bummed about the loss. Yeah, it was awesome to have that many points, and that being my last home game, going out with a bang. But we still lost, and I’m more focused on the team.
A: The team struggled down the stretch, going 2-8 in its final 10 games. It enters the NESCAC tournament on a five-game losing streak. What can your team do to turn it around and upset an almost unbeatable Tufts squad?
KR: I think we played Tufts pretty hard the first time we played them. We know what we can do and how we can beat them. Coach has emphasized a lot this week in practice about improving our offensive execution. I think it will be really helpful, especially because Tufts is such a great defensive team.
A: Sometime in the next couple of weeks you will have played your final game as a Wesleyan Cardinal. What will be your most lasting memory and how do you hope you’re remembered?
KR: Against Connecticut College my sophomore year, we played at home. And it was the 40th anniversary of Wesleyan women’s basketball, so there were a bunch of alums back. And we won that game in the last couple of minutes, and it was a super exciting game. And then we all went over to the stands and all the alums stood up, President Roth was there, and we all just sang the fight song together. It was so corny, but it was so awesome. I hope to be remembered for playing with as much heart as I possibly could. Just that I went out there and worked as hard as I could and left it all out there for better or worse.
A: You will be graduating this spring with a degree in neuroscience and biology. What will you miss most about playing college basketball?
KR: The atmosphere. Having your teammates there. If I’m having a bad day school-wise or whatever, I can just go out on the court and brush it off and play the game that I love. I’m definitely going to miss having that outlet. I don’t know what I’m going to do without it.