Eilise O’Connor: Basketball equals passion

Dan Moreno

womensbballUMKC women’s basketball team’s successful guard, Eilise O’Connor, came to Kansas City three years ago to make history on and off the court.

Last Saturday, O’Connor helped the Roos win the first game of the season 95-69 against Rockhurst University, scoring 15 points and grabbing five rebounds.

Last week, O’Connor was named one of 30 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award for excelling in both academics and athletics. CLASS stands for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School. She entered her senior season with a 3.99 GPA in health sciences and was also named to the First Team All-Summit League and D-IAAA Scholar athlete last season.

“Although I am honored by the recognition for the successes I’ve had on and off the court, personal acclamations aren’t the reasons I love playing the game of basketball at the collegiate level,”  O’Connor said. “Team successes are the most invigorating and rewarding parts of the game.”

O’Connor, who moved to UMKC from San Francisco, Calif., has fit perfectly in Head Coach Marsha Frese’s lineup.

“Being away from home and my family has definitely been a challenge,” O’Connor said. “However, the girls I’ve been blessed to play with throughout my career have become my family. Without them, it would impossible.”

Entering her last season with the Roos, O’Connor feels honored and happy to belong to UMKC.

“The feeling of representing such a close-knit athletic family and a rising university fills me with pride every time I step on the court,” O’Connor said. “I couldn’t imagine playing anywhere else. I’m humbled by the knowledge that UMKC will always be my home.”

Basketball became a part of O’Connor’s life at a very young age.

“I first started playing basketball when I was four years old. From the first game of my YMCA basketball career in kindergarten, I knew basketball was the sport for me. As they say, the rest is history,” O’Connor said. “I ended up in Kansas City as a result of some very persistent recruiting. Honestly, I loved the Kansas City area on my visit and the presence of some distant relatives out here made it feel like home.”

Despite her long basketball career, O’Connor does not plan to pursue professional basketball after graduation.

“Although playing in the WNBA would be an honor, I don’t think I could play basketball for a paycheck,” O’Connor said. “For me, basketball has always been about the relationships with teammates and I don’t think the WNBA could ever top the friendships and experiences I’ve had as a member of a collegiate team.”

Instead, O’Connor plans on continuing her studies and has other goals in life.

“God willing, my plan is to attend dental school the fall immediately following my graduation this spring,” O’Connor said. “My long term goal is [to] open my own dental practice and free clinic along with joining Alliance for Smilesa nonprofit oral healthcare organization that takes part in pro-bono work across the world.”

When O’Connor is not practicing or studying, she enjoys resting and spending time with her closest friends.

“My favorite thing to do when I have some free time is to hang out with friends,” O’Connor said. “I value my relationships with friends and family more than anything in the world. Because of this, I try to spend as much time as possible with these people I hold closest to my heart.”

O’Connor and her teammates face a new challenge this season as the team debuts in the WAC.

“I’m so excited to face this challenge head on with my amazing teammates. We’re a completely different team with a totally new identity this season and I’m very confident in the damage we’ll cause in the new conference,” O’Connor said. “Our goal is winning the WAC tournament and anything shy of that will be a letdown. We hold ourselves to the highest standard and, because of this, the sky is the limit for this team.”

O’Connor mentioned that her only goal is to help the team in any way possible.

”My most important individual goal is leading this team to the best of my ability and being someone every one of my teammates can turn to for anything and everything,” O’Connor said. “I can’t promise points or records, and quite frankly, nor do I care to do so. I can promise, however, that I will give all of myself in every way possible. Fans can expect to come see a team that is unified and committed totally and completely to having each others’ backs.”

Next up for O’Connor and the women’s basketball team is the season opener this Saturday when they head to Denton, Texas, to take on North Texas at 7:30 p.m.