Sports

Edison/Fresno City alum Keyora Wharry takes long path to NCAA Tournament

Colorado State’s Keyora Wharry looks to pass against Fresno State during the first half of the championship game of the 2016 Mountain West Conference Tournament.
Colorado State’s Keyora Wharry looks to pass against Fresno State during the first half of the championship game of the 2016 Mountain West Conference Tournament. The Associated Press

Keyora Wharry, like other Division I college basketball players, always dreamed of playing in the NCAA Tournament.

Her chances of completing that trip looked a little hazy at first.

Wharry finished her senior year at Edison High, then made the trek to New Mexico State, hoping to help lead the Aggies to a Western Athletic Conference title.

But her stay in Las Cruces ended after playing two games in 2011-12, a season-ending knee injury forcing her to take a medical redshirt. Unhappy with the direction her career was taking, Wharry decided to transfer.

In a way, it was a step back. Rather than committing to another NCAA school, Wharry chose Fresno City College and coach Brian Tessler.

It turned into a wise decision for Wharry, who in two seasons at Fresno City set school records for points and rebounds before returning to the D-I level at Colorado State. After a postseason near-miss last season, she and her teammates locked up the Mountain West Conference’s automatic NCAA bid and will tip off against sixth-seeded South Florida in a 7 p.m. Saturday game at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion.

Colorado State is the 11th seed in a regional where the championship will be decided in Bridgeport, Conn.

I knew after my last year with Tessler – I said that was worth it.

Keyora Wharry, on choosing to play at Fresno City College, rather than another NCAA Division I school, after transferring from New Mexico State

For Wharry, it was a path well worth traveling.

“I knew after my last year with Tessler – I said that was worth it,” Wharry said. “I was excited then. Honestly, I was happy to get out of New Mexico State and I was really happy with the path I took. I trusted (Tessler), and he was right.”

Tessler remembers long talks he had with his star player about where she would go for her second NCAA go-around. Fresno State was among the contenders.

When Fresno State lost their coach … Keyora was kind of in the middle of it and didn’t know what was going to happen.

Fresno City coach Brian Tessler, on factors in assisting Wharry on where to transfer after two years of community college ball

“I thought the assistant coach at Colorado State did a great job recruiting her,” Tessler said. “When Fresno State lost their coach (Raegan Pebley, who left for Texas Christian), Keyora was kind of in the middle of it and didn’t know what was going to happen. At that point, Keyora decided, ‘Colorado State is where I wanted to go.’ 

In her first season with the Bulldogs’ Mountain West rival, Wharry was frustrated because she put up the numbers she would have liked, averaging six points and 4.4 rebounds per game. This season, with her minutes and most of her stats on the rise during an all-conference season, Colorado State is 31-1. That includes a run to the Mountain West Tournament championship, capped by a 55-54 win against Fresno State in which she scored 10 points.

Wharry is third on the team at 10.8 points per game and has started all 32.

“At Fresno City, it was more like freewheeling, and Tessler let me be athletic and allowed me to play the way I like to play,” Wharry said. “At Colorado State, it was more restricted, but I just found a way how to get into a rhythm here.”

Other than her short stay at New Mexico State, team success has followed Wharry wherever she has played.

At Edison, the 5-foot-10 guard/forward led the team to four consecutive conference championships. Fresno City was 59-8 with two Central Valley Conference championships with Wharry as she set school career records for scoring (1,221) and rebounding (733).

With her college playing days coming to a close, she wants to make the most of the NCAA Tournament run – especially given what it took to get there after graduating from Edison. She may not be done with the game after this season but does have a post-basketball life mapped out.

“I want to play as long as I can,” she said. “I want to play overseas, however that works out, and find a career in criminal justice once I’m done playing basketball.”

Anthony Galaviz: 559-441-6042, @agalaviz_TheBee

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