From Army to the WNBA: Kelsey Minato’s Incredible Opportunity

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AP Photo/Mike Groll

She shoots with an accuracy of forty-two percent from the field goal line. She earned the all-Patriot League player of the year for three years in a row. Her points per game average is just above twenty-four. Kelsey Minato, despite a stellar college basketball career of outstanding accomplishments, would nonetheless end her basketball career following the obtainment of her undergraduate degree. Minato, a student at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, is often praised as the best basketball player in Army athletics history. Originally, once she graduated, Minato had planned to begin her 5-year-long service as a second lieutenant stationed in Fort Sills, Oklahoma. With such immense success in her college basketball career, West Point has now offered her the opportunity to play in the WNBA provided that she secures a spot on her team of choice. As an athlete and soldier, Minato serves as a role model in showing that all athletes, male and female, can achieve greatness by earning their own opportunities.

To describe her as a player, Minato has often been compared to the NBA guard Stephen Curry. Both are relatively small players who have shown a quiet, controlled characteristic on the court. It is when defenders disregard their reserved, deliberate style of play that they score upwards of thirty points in one game. Initially, while Minato was being recruited as a high schooler, she surprisingly received little attention from the large, stellar NCAA Division I basketball schools. Her high school basketball coach, Coach McClurg, noticed her outstanding ability on the court while she was only in middle school playing for travel and Catholic Youth Organization teams. He describes the “gravitational pull” which she has on the other players in the game. A tricky guard to play against, Minato has broken the record at both Huntington Beach High School in California for points scored as well as the record for points scored in the Patriot League, one that had not been close to being challenged for over a decade.

Minato, a Environmental Science major at West Point, has also had a strong scholarly career of many accomplishments. Her peers regard her with great respect, as they voted her the head chair of the student-athlete advisory committee at the academy. Despite military familial lineage extending back for three generations, Minato had never considered the possibility of attending a service academy until her junior year of high school. According to Minato, the drawing factor of West Point was the challenge of everyday life. She deviated from the path of a normal American university, embracing all that West point had to offer. During her undergraduate career she has been training to take her position in the Signal Corps, essentially a realm untouched by female soldiers.

Before March of this year, Minato believed she would hang up her basketball sneakers forever following her last game as a senior. She explained in an interview, “It’s really sad for me to think about. The thought of not having [basketball] in my life is a really sobering thought.” In March of this year, she was offered the opportunity of playing in the WNBA before performing her service. She is currently trying out for the San Antonio Stars and if she makes the roster, she would go on paid leave from the military. In the series of interviews she has done, she expresses that she is humbled by and grateful for the opportunity to play with professional athletes. She continues to show athletes of all ages and genders that opportunities must be earned and that despite anything, dreams of achieving can come true.