By CLAIRE CRUZ, Staff Writer
LYFORD — Meagan Kinney was in fourth grade when San Perlita girls basketball coach Marco Mungia saw her potential.
In his first year with the school, Mungia said he watched Kinney compete against Trojans senior basketball standout Tige Johnson in everything and told his coworkers “by the end of their careers here at San Perlita, they’re going to leave as two of the best athletes to come out of this high school.”
Mungia took over the girls hoops program two years ago and has watched Kinney’s skills, confidence and maturity grow. She averaged 15 points, five assists, five steals and four rebounds per game her senior year and was named the District 32-2A offensive player of the year. She also earned spots on the TABC All-Region IV team and the RGVBCA’s Sub-5A All-Valley and Sub-6A senior All-Star teams.
On Monday, Kinney achieved her biggest feat yet as she committed to play collegiate basketball for Midland University in Fremont, Neb., in the NAIA. She and Johnson made Mungia’s vision come true as they’re both headed to the next level with basketball scholarships.
“At first it was a lot to take in, but once I realized what was happening I was excited about everything and it felt really good,” Kinney said. “I’m excited for the opportunity, new people, new team and a new family. (Midland coach Shawn Gilbert) is a super nice guy, and I’m just excited to meet everyone.”
Kinney didn’t decide to pursue a college career until her senior season was over and she realized she wasn’t ready to let basketball go. She asked Mungia to help her find an opportunity to keep playing, and he threw himself into the process.
Mungia used Twitter and FieldLevel, a recruitment networking website, to share Kinney’s highlight reels and sent letters to schools across Texas detailing her accolades and her strong character. She fielded interest from a handful of teams in Texas, Wisconsin and Montana before decided to take her talents to Nebraska.
“When I called the coach and told him she was interested, he jumped. He had seen her film and he said, ‘Yes, coach, we want her, we’d love to have her, from what I’ve watched she’s going to be a perfect fit for our program,’” Mungia said. “She didn’t play her season looking for a scholarship. How hard she played and how well she played got her a basketball scholarship.”
Mungia said Kinney “was born and raised to work,” and praised her work ethic as the main factor in reaching this milestone. Kinney’s family owns a bait shop in Port Mansfield, and she’s spent her life waking up before the sun to help her mom, Erika, run things when she’s not in school.
That initiative helped her become a leader for the Lady Trojans and contribute to turning around the girls basketball program. San Perlita went from a one-district win team to bi-district champions by the time Kinney’s career ended.
“Her leadership, work ethic and passion for the game just lifted everybody else,” Mungia said. “When you have a leader like that, who works hard in practices, in the weight room, with their conditioning, and you see our best player working that hard, you have no other choice but to work hard, too.”
Kinney takes pride in the role she played in the development of the program and hopes she left behind a legacy of hard work and dedication to encourage the younger girls to keep building. As she looks to the future, she’ll be studying nursing while attending Midland University and wants to become a paramedic.
Kinney appreciates everyone who supported her along the way, but is especially thankful for Mungia getting her to this point.
“I never would’ve been able to get in contact with any schools if it weren’t for my coach. He did everything for me, and none of this would be possible if it weren’t for him,” Kinney said. “It means a lot, like, I can’t even think of words to put it in, what it means for him to believe in me that much.”