IUP BASKETBALL: Crimson Hawks land big name for assistant coach
The IUP women’s basketball team landed a big name in its search for an assistant coach.
The university announced Monday it has hired former Penn State and WNBA star Kelly Mazzante as the top assistant to head coach Tom McConnell.
“I’m thrilled to have Kelly join our staff for a lot of reasons,” said McConnell. “I’m really happy for our players, who are going to have the opportunity to learn from one of college’s best all-around players. She’s done it all — from high school, to college, to the WNBA and playing in Europe. What excites me is that there isn’t a player on our team that she won’t be able to relate to in one way or another; she’s been there.
“She’s going to be an outstanding coach for many years to come and she has so much to offer young players. So for her to begin her coaching career at IUP is special for all of us, and I look forward to the impact that she’s going to make.”
Mazzante graduated from Penn State in 2004 as the Big Ten’s all-time leading scorer with 2,919 points and as a two-time Associated Press first-team All-American. She was the fourth player in Big Ten history to repeat as conference player of the year, earning the award as a junior and senior.
“I’m extremely excited to get started on this next chapter,” said Mazzante. “Just like when I visited Penn State and knew it was the right fit, when I met Coach McConnell I knew this would be the perfect situation for me. My values and beliefs line up with his, and he is exactly who I want to learn from as a first-time coach.”
With the Hawks, Mazzante will take over as the recruiting coordinator in addition to her coaching duties during practice and in game preparation.
“Kelly has a great feel for the game and she’s an excellent teacher of the game,” said McConnell. “And I think that she’s going to help our players’ individual games and help us as a team. Our players are going to have the opportunity to learn how to play the game and how to prepare and be able to hear first-hand the sacrifice and the commitment is takes to be successful.”
A native of Williamsport, Mazzante graduated from Montoursville Area High School, where she totaled 3,217 career points as a four-year starter. She led the Warriors to state championship appearances as a junior and senior.
Mazzante’s name is scattered throughout the Penn State and Big Ten record books. She holds marks for points in a season (872 in 2001-02) and points in a game (49 vs. Minnesota in 2001), to go along with her career scoring record. She holds school career records for field goals made (1,051) and 3-point field goals made (357), and her career point total is also more than any male in conference history.
She reached the 1,000- and 2,000-point milestones faster than any other player in conference history, led the nation in scoring with 24.9 points per game as a sophomore and was the first player to earn a first-team All-Big Ten selection four times. Mazzante was also a two-time finalist for the Wade Trophy, awarded annually to the top women’s basketball player in Division I.
During her senior season, she led the Nittany Lions to their second consecutive Big Ten championship and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, with an eventual trip to the Elite Eight.
In 2004, she was the 18th overall selection in the WNBA Draft, taken by the Charlotte Sting, where she spent three seasons. Mazzante also played for three years with the Phoenix Mercury, where she was a part of WNBA championships in 2007 and 2009. She also played professionally for teams in Slovakia, Russia, Hungary and Italy before finishing her pro career with the Atlanta Dream in 2011.
“I played at the highest level, and I know how to play under pressure and with adversity,” Mazzante said. “I think having a coach that has been through what I’ve been through will be a huge advantage for our players. I’m really excited for the opportunity.”
On the side, Mazzante is a certified personal trainer, and she runs Kelly Mazzante Fitness, where she organizes physical fitness and sport training boot camps and also teaches basketball lessons. She also served as an AAU coach this summer.