Ireland’s own Rachel Clancy is potentially finishing up her last season with the Cal Poly women’s basketball team as she plans to graduate and return to her home country.
With one more year of eligibility after a red-shirt first year at Cal Poly, she has the option of staying and playing or moving on.
“Coach said I can wait as long as want to decide,” Clancy said. “It will probably be a month or so before I make a decision.”
Clancy has the second most minutes on the team, just behind the Mustangs scoring leader Kristina Santiago, but has nearly 160 more minutes than Ashlee Stewart who is in third.
“We’ve tried to not bother her too much about it,” assistant coach Kerri Nakamoto said. “She’ll make the right decision. Whatever happens we will adjust, but we’d love to have her come back for another year.”
Clancy is planning to graduate in June with a degree in biological sciences. She is applying to a one-year global health masters program at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland for this fall or the following year.
“My academics are definitely my number one priority,” Clancy said. “Basketball is just something fun I get to do along the way.”
She says she really likes science and health but doesn’t want to be a doctor. She would want to study disease outbreaks or other aspects of health, such as how to improve health care. She says she definitely sees herself moving back to Ireland.
“I came to the States just to play college basketball as an opportunity to improve,” Clancy said
“In Ireland it’s just an amateur sport,” Clancy said. “I put way more time in on the court over here than at home. I spend more time in weight room and there are more staff to help. It’s a whole other level of professionalism.”
Clancy explains there are differences in the style of play from Ireland to America
“Players don’t get positioned by height, so they are more skilled in other areas. Here if you are tall you kind of get dropped in that post position.”
Her fondest memory while being at Cal Poly thus far is beating UC Riverside at the buzzer last year in the conference semifinals.
Making it to the Big West championship game last year and having grasped the number one spot in the Big West Conference for much of the season this year, the team has high expectations for tournament play starting next week.
“In the past we’ve been underdogs and now we are expected to win,” she said. “We deserve it for all our hard work. To see that become a reality would be amazing.”
When she’s not playing for Cal Poly, Clancy competes on the Irish national team. She captained Ireland at U-16, U-18 and U-20 levels and now plays on the senior team. She says four other players from the team are in the States for college, but most are based in Ireland.
“It’s fantastic,” Clancy said about the Irish team. “I’ve been on it since I was 12. The last three summers I played on the senior team.”
Clancy received Ireland’s National Under-20 Player of the Year award for 2005 and 2006. She’s been in 61 international appearances for Ireland. The senior national team is disbanding this year for financial reasons.
“It’s the first summer in ten years I won’t be playing on the Irish team,” she said. “Since we’ve been playing together a while now we were just getting good. It’s kind of a disappointment.”
Nakamoto says she has a running joke with Clancy where they interact with stereotypes from the Irish culture.
“She started playing along with me,” Nakamoto said. “When I see her in the mornings she always says ‘top of the morning to ya’ which she says they don’t really say all that often in Ireland.”
Freshman guard Caroline Reeves says Clancy is an extremely hard worker and her character and personality will be missed if she leaves.
“Whenever she’s on the court she’s doing something for us,” Reeves said. “She is a leader in terms of what she says. She is always analyzing situations and is the one during the huddles telling us what we need to do better.
“Half the time I wish we were the same year so we could have played basketball together all four years.”
Ashley Cascio, a math sophomore, says her and Reeves have an Ireland fund to visit Clancy this summer.
“I have 35 dollars right now,” she said. “It’s a little small, but it will get there.”
Nakamoto says Clancy is always willing to do what is asked of her by the coaches.
“She’s mature and she works her butt off,” Nakamoto said. “All the other girls admire that and look up to her for it.”
After falling from the first place position to third place over the weekend, Clancy says the team is buckling down on defense and rebounding and staying focused on the championship.
“My favorite part about the game is the fact that it’s a team sport,” Clancy said. “If I didn’t have all those girls to see every day at practice it wouldn’t be as fun for sure.”