Athletics Q&A with senior forward Kelly Kunkel
By KEVIN SMITH
Senior Kelly Kunkel has been a four-year player for head coach Katie Vaughn on the UMSL women’s basketball team. As a starter last year, she earned Second Team All-GLVC honors, averaging 12.0 points a game on top of over six rebounds a game. Hoping to build off an impressive year from beyond the arc, shooting 40 percent, she is set on leading the team as a captain for the 2015-16 season.
During your career here at UMSL, what has been your favorite memory on the court? How about off the court?
I have two favorite memories on the court. My first goes back to my freshmen year when we beat William Jewell on a last-second half-court shot. It made it on ESPN which was pretty cool! My second favorite memory comes from last year during our Pack the Stands night against Quincy and we beat them in overtime! I just remember the crowd was really cheering us on and the atmosphere was just awesome!
My favorite memory off the court would be during my freshmen year when we got snowed in at Illinois-Springfield. When the boys got off the bus at the hotel, all of the girls were waiting with snowballs, and we started a snowball fight! We had all the coaches in on it too which was pretty funny.
What do you think your strengths are as a team for this upcoming year?
As a team, we have a lot of really talented players who can score in a variety of ways, which will create some mismatches for our opponents. Also, we have returners who have experience playing for UMSL and who know how our offense works and what our coaches expect of us. Regarding our new players, they also have a lot of experience playing from their previous schools, and they are able to make smart game-like decisions.
Do you have a favorite skill to work on or drill to go through in practice? Why?
My favorite drill in practice would be a shooting drill called seven spot shooting. We are split up into two teams and have to make 10 shots from designated areas. It is always fun to compete and cheer against the other team and it also gives us the opportunity to shoot a variety of shots.
Do you have a certain pre-game ritual? Music, meals, etc?
Before every home game, my roommates and I jam out to “Dirty Little Secret” by All-American Rejects in the car. It started about two years ago when it randomly just came on one day and has been getting us pumped up ever since.
Why do you wear the number 32?
Honestly, there is no special reason or story behind why I chose 32. Of the numbers I was offered as a freshman, it sounded the best and I have stayed with it ever since.
Being on the team for four years, what advice would you and have you given to freshmen on your team?
In terms of basketball, I would tell them to know that you’re probably going to make mistakes and just try to learn from them so you can get better. Also, just simply work hard and play hard in practice and in games, which our freshmen do an amazing job of doing already. Off the court, I would advise them to make their course work a little heavier in their beginning years so that by the time senior year comes, you are not stressing out and trying to squeeze in classes when you have limited time.
How do you think being a four-year athlete here has helped you on and off the court at UMSL?
Being a four-year athlete has helped me on the court by being able to handle high-pressure situations and being able to recognize when we need to continue doing something because it’s working or when we need to make an adjustment. Off the court it has instilled a hard work ethic and helped me work well with others. It also gave me the opportunity to meet some awesome people and teammates who have become my closest friends.
Kevin Smith is a UMSL senior majoring in criminology and criminal justice. He’s also a pitcher on the UMSL baseball team and an athletics media intern.
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