South Charlotte

Winthrop basketball star Dequesha McClanahan is headed to Finland

One of the best basketball players – man or woman – to play for the Winthrop Eagles is off to Finland.

Dequesha McClanahan has signed a one-year deal to play for Forssan Alku (FoA).

“It was a blessing, when I found out about the opportunity,” said the Oak Ridge, Tenn., native in a news release. “I had been waiting awhile. I hadn’t heard much from my agent over the summer, but she promised to keep me updated about opportunities.”

McClanahan is Winthrop’s all-time leading scorer with 2,777 points and first in assists with 744. She was a three-time Big South Player of the Year.

She led the Lady Eagles to the second round of the WNIT in 2012 and the school’s first NCAA appearance her senior season in 2013, when she averaged 17.8 points and 6.6 assists.

“Very few people get paid to play a game and do something they love,” said coach Kevin Cook in a news release. “Dequesha gets to do this while experiencing a different culture at the same time. I have no doubt she will be a successful professional basketball player.”

McClanahan is the sixth former Winthrop women’s player to sign with a European club, joining Leigh-Ann Pursifull, Charlotta Wennefors, Eva Milevoj, Yvonne van Daalen and Tiffany Rodd.

The Forssan Alku (FoA) season will begin in early October and run through March. McClanahan will be one of three players from the U.S. on the team.

Winthrop basketball notes

Winthrop women’s basketball coach Kevin Cook has landed 6-foot-2 Australian U18 standout Bridget O’Brien for the 2015-16 season.

O’Brien, a native of Brisbane, Australia, who attended Canterbury College High School, averaged 16 points and nearly nine rebounds per game while playing for Queensland South in the 2014 Australian Junior Championships in April. She scored in double figures in six of eight tournament games, recorded two double-doubles – 13 points and 10 rebounds and 18 points and 14 boards – and had scoring performances of 26 and 23 points.

She also averaged 9.75 points and 10.25 rebounds during the 2013 Junior National Championships and 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds in 2012.

O’Brien may be remembered by Rock Hill basketball fans as having played in the 2013 Y.C. Winborn Classic, hosted annually by Rock Hill High School. O’Brien was selected MVP of that tournament.

Cook, Kelsey get extensions

Winthrop’s basketball coaches have reeped rewards for their successful seasons.

Athletic Director Tom Hickman recently announced that men’s coach Pat Kelsey and women’s coach Kevin Cook each have been given two-year contract extensions.

Kelsey’s five-year contract has been extended through the 2019 season, while Cook’s four-year contract has been extended through the 2018 season. These extensions return the contracts to their original lengths.

In his second season, Kelsey directed the Eagles to their first 20-win season in six years, finishing 20-13 and advancing to the championship game of the Big South Conference Tournament.

Cook, also in his second year at the helm of the women’s team, led the Eagles to their first Big South Conference championship and first NCAA Tournament appearance while achieving a school-record 24 wins.

During his two years as head coach, Cook has led Winthrop’s women to back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in school history.