Kelsey Luna came home last week. The one-time standout point guard for the St. Joseph’s Academy basketball team was in town doing something unimaginable. She was here to help beat the Angels.
Luna, 24, is in her first season as an assistant coach with the Columbia Rock Bridge girls’ basketball team. Luna is wrapping up her master’s degree in sports psychology at Mizzou and wanted to get her feet wet coaching. She contacted Rock Bridge coach Jill Nagel and was added to the staff this winter.
Last week, Rock Bridge was in town to play in the Webster Winter Challenge tournament at Webster Groves. The tournament features such local heavy-hitters as Fort Zumwalt West, Hazelwood Central, Webster Groves and of course, St. Joe. Rock Bridge and St. Joe squared off in the title game, and the Bruins emerged with the 63-50 victory. After two straight runner-up finishes, the Bruins finally walked out of Roberts Gym a winner.
Luna did her share of winning with St. Joe. Luna was blessed with fleet feet, the quick hands of a pickpocket and a tireless work ethic. The only thing that moved faster than she did on the court was her mind. Luna is brighter than a pair of oncoming high-beams.
She helped lead St. Joe to the Class 5 state title as a sophomore in 2004, the last basketball championship for the Angels. She continued her hoops career after graduating St. Joe in 2006 at Indiana State University. There aren’t many 5-foot-5 Division I point guards, but Luna would make her mark on the court and in the classroom.
She exploded on the scene and was named the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year. She would go on to put together a career that was nothing short of spectacular. Her name is all over the record book. Her 1,431 career points is good enough for eighth all-time at ISU. She broke the career record for three-pointers. She was third all-time for both three-point percentage (39 percent) and free throw percentage (83 percent). She was twice named to the All-Missouri Valley Conference first team and did so as a junior despite suffering a torn ACL late in the season. She led the nation as a senior when she connected on 93 percent of her free throws.
As great as she was on the court, she was perfect in the classroom—literally. She graduated in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a 4.0 GPA. She was a two-time Academic All-American and the MVC Scholar Athlete of the Year.
Now she’s powering her way to a master’s degree and starting on the path to coaching. One of the reasons Luna pursued sports psychology was to understand why so many young athletes burn out. The science behind the phenomenon has been eyeopening to Luna. It’s the type of knowledge that has helped her transition from player to coach. And it has been a transition. “It’s a lot more technical,” Luna says.
What’s not different, however, are the girls. Luna relishes being a part of a team and meshing with all the different personalities. She sees similarities between her teammates and the kids she works with now. “There are the same struggles, same challenges, same joys,” Luna says. “Sports are so much more than the scoreboard.”
Luna doesn’t know what her coaching future holds. She’ll graduate from Mizzou in May. Her wedding is scheduled two weeks after that, and then she’s off to find the next challenge. Maybe it’ll be in Columbia, maybe it’ll be in St. Louis. All she knows is that coaching is something she wants in her life. “I love coaching, and I love working with high school girls,” Luna says. “I just want to help them.”