On a trip to Atlanta four years ago, Rachel Clancy saw Cal Poly women’s basketball coach Faith Mimnaugh seemingly everywhere.
“Same plane, hotel, car rental company,” said Clancy, who was there playing in an AAU tournament that Mimnaugh was at to recruit. “She saw me everywhere.”
And now Clancy — set to graduate from Cal Poly with a bachelor’s degree in June but with one more season of athletic eligibility — is committing to more face time with Mimnaugh.
In lieu of returning to her family home in Limerick, Ireland, as she’d originally intended when she came to the United States for college in 2006, Clancy will play out her eligibility as a fifth-year senior with the Mustangs next winter.
“When I started to look at everything and see how the season developed, it just felt like the right thing to do,” said Clancy, who redshirted at Cal Poly in 2007-08 after transferring from Duquesne.
“From a basketball perspective, I see our team doing very well next year … I definitely see us going places.”
Clancy was the team’s second-leading scorer (11.3 points per game) and rebounder (5.4 per game) in a season where Cal Poly (18-11) finished tied for second in the Big West Conference.
The Mustangs also return Big West Player of the Year Kristina Santiago (19.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg) after advancing to the semifinals of the conference tournament in March, when the season ended with a 54-51 loss to UC Riverside.
Known mostly as a 3-point specialist prior to this season, Clancy doubled her minutes and became a vocal leader.
“Having another leader emerge on the court and off the court is just huge for us,” Mimnaugh said.
“Her rebounding and decision-making, being able to assess all the things on the court with a team that understands her strengths. I just think she’s going to be an all-conference performer next year. I’m just tickled that she came back.”
This is the second time that Clancy is coming back to Mimnaugh.
Despite seeing the coach all over the place at the summer tournament in 2006, Clancy thought San Luis Obispo was too far from home to commit to the Mustangs after visiting the campus and instead chose Duquesne in Pittsburgh.
Mimnaugh discovered the Irish product, who’s played on the national team since she was a preteen, through an e-mail from Cal Poly President Warren Baker after he was tipped off by a fellow administrator with ties to Ireland.
After playing in all but one game but logging just 8.6 minutes per contest in one season, Clancy decided to leave Duquesne and opt for the small-town appeal of the Central Coast.
She got back in touch with Mimnaugh and forged ties strong enough to delay her return home.
“I never knew if I would be able to make the friends that I was able to make back home,” Clancy said. “If I left this June, I would be really sad to say goodbye to the team.”