Chong is Pursuing Her Childhood Dream0
By Chuck Slater
Saniya Chong, the girl from Ossining who could, is living her dream. She is currently playing professional basketball exhibition games with the Dallas Wings of the Women’s National Basketball Association. She was drafted in the WNBA’s second round, the 26th overall pick, on April 13th after a virtually all-winning career with the storied University of Connecticut team following a record-setting run with Ossining High School. She flew to Dallas two weeks ago.
“It’s been a dream,” said Chong of pro basketball. “Ever since I was a little girl shooting baskets with my brother, I dreamed of someday being a pro.” And more than two years ago, she voiced the hope publicly. “I recently was told I could expect to be drafted,” continued Chong, a 5-foot, 8-inch guard, “but not by whom.”
And it’s a decent bet that Chong — whose 2,988 points for Dan Ricci’s Ossining Pride is a Section 1 record as well as the standing state record for four-year performers, has the lowest collegiate average and the highest winning percentage of any of the Wings’ candidates. She and fellow senior Tierney Lawlor compiled a 152-2 mark at UConn as the Huskies won three NCAA titles — the winningest pair in Division 1 women’s basketball history. Chong, a full-time starter as a senior, averaged 8.3 points on 47 percent shooting and 40 percent on 3-point shots — but that hardly tells her story. Her 3.31 assist-to-turnover ratio ranked fourth in the country and the guard managed to snare four rebounds a game.
“She’s a winner,” Ricci said simply. Howard Megdal, an intricate observer of women’s basketball, agrees: “She has several translatable skills; among them is her ability to take care of the basketball and passing. But the separator for Chong may be defense. She was third in the country in defensive points per possession. Between her three-point shot and defending, she possesses unique skill sets for WNBA teams.”
Chong’s junior season was plagued by a painful iliotibial band but it all came together this season. “Saniya’s confidence level and her preparation were way better,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “Anybody could see, watching us play, that she played with a lot more purpose and was much more sure of herself. She acted like a senior all year long; she took care of the ball, made shots and played well defensively. It just all kind of came together for her this year.”
And what about with the Wings? “I think it depends on what the situation is on the team,” Auriemma said. “Dallas has a number of guards coming in so it depends on what they are looking for. She has shown the ability to make plays for other players, so in that respect I think she will be really valuable. Her ability to handle the ball and her quickness to the basket is a great strength. Playing well in the WNBA is all about getting on the right team and how your talents fit into the needs of the team. I think Saniya is going to surprise some people.”
And after the WNBA season, Chong may take her dream overseas, too, with big bucks to be made in Europe. “Yeah, I might like to,” Saniya Chong said.