NORMAL — The Illinois State women’s basketball team's improvement from eight to 14 wins in Coach Kristen Gillespie’s first season did not go unnoticed by Normal Community High School junior Maya Wong.
And apparently Wong’s development as a player has not gone unnoticed by Gillespie, either.
Wong, a 5-foot-8 point guard, said Tuesday she has accepted a scholarship offer from ISU and will join the Redbirds in 2020.
“We watched her turn it around this year,” Wong said. “I’ve been to some practices, and she is really doing a good job with them.”
Wong earned Pantagraph All-Area honors as a sophomore, averaging 10.2 points, 3.7 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals.
“She’s a great talent and a great young lady to go with it,” NCHS coach Marcus Mann said. “Last year kind of late in the summer she started gaining (college) attention. Since then it’s been coming in pretty frequently.”
Wong, who is coached by her father Geoff in AAU competition with Illinois Rebels United, also has scholarship offers from ISU’s Missouri Valley Conference rivals Southern Illinois, Evansville, Indiana State, Valparaiso and Bradley as well as Eastern Illinois, Northern Illinois, Omaha and Alabama-Birmingham.
“My family and I have been talking about it for awhile,” said Wong, whose older brother Ben plays football at North Central. “I didn’t want to rush anything, but ISU is a good fit. Scholarships (offers) don’t last forever. They were holding mine so I was ready.”
Mann admires Wong’s ability “to handle the ball as well as handle the game. She has an innate ability to see the floor and get her teammates involved. She has the scoring ability to drive and shoot and pass and distribute. She’s the total package as far as a point guard who can score for you.”
Wong considers her strength “getting everyone involved and also being able to create for myself. I’m working on making my shot more consistent and being able to finish against bigger and faster defenders.”
Mann also sees ISU as a fitting place for Wong to continue her career.
“Kristen has done some great things as far as putting some players in place. Maya is a jack of all trades," Mann said. "She is not a selfish point guard, but she definitely can fill up the bucket if you ask her to.
“Her versatility and coachability make her the type of player any program would be happy to have.”
NCAA rules prohibit Gillespie from commenting on recruits until they have signed a national letter of intent. Wong is the first player to commit in ISU’s class of 2020.