“I was Player of the Year in high school, committed to the University of Tennessee, transferred sophomore year to University of Maryland, where I got my bachelor’s in science,” Wiley-Gatewood said.
The former McDonald’s All-American’s self-bio is exceptionally modest, as her resume matches — if not trumps — that of most professionals. From 2000 to 2004, Wiley-Gatewood nabbed California and CIF Division I Player of the Year honors, and plenty of press and additional notoriety along the way. Her play at Los Angeles-area Lynwood High earned her a full scholarship to the college of her choice.
Chronic knee pain and surgeries, which she’s referred to as “old people knees,” kept Wiley-Gatewood from reaching potential late in her collegiate career and past it. Rather than signing autographs at this stage of the career, she is living out another dream: coaching.
She’s taking the same positive and passionate attitude that helped her succeed in high school and college to Mission Bay’s program, a team that came with a warning label.
“I was very excited because I knew I had a lot of talent [here] and I could develop them to become better players,” Wiley-Gatewood said. “I also knew they needed some kind of discipline because that was what they were known for.”
The disciplinary issues were two-fold.
“To be honest, there was a lot of showing up late,” Wiley-Gatewood said. “There was a lot of arguing on the court and if people come see them now, they’ll see a big difference in them.”
Since mid-November, Wiley-Gatewood has rolled up her sleeves and gone to work.
“We started right away,” Wiley-Gatewood said. “We also played in a tournament. We beat San Diego High, and they are ranked really high in San Diego. We also beat OLP [Our Lady of Peace].
“Last year, Mission Bay had an 11-14 record, which was kind of terrible for a program. So to see us beat San Diego High and OLP, which wins our league, was big for us.”
Wiley-Gatewood attributes team bonding, chemistry and hard work to her team’s early success.
“They are more of a family now, just not individuals,” Wiley-Gatewood said. “They’ve grown as players and as people.”
While the girls are focusing on one game at a time, their season goals are never forgotten. Winning league, for the first time, is a milestone they want to reach.
“I think that we have a great chance to win league this year and to win CIF if we stick together and play together, we’ll be unstoppable. I have great confidence in my team,” she said.
The coach doesn’t mind she has no seniors to her name.
“I think that’s a wonderful thing. I have two years to develop this team,” Wiley-Gatewood said. “I am glad I don’t have any seniors, so I can develop them for two years.”
With youth on their side, Wiley-Gatewood is looking for two specific players to step up to the leadership role.
“Birteesha Solomon [sophomore] is one and Keyhandra Cannon [junior] is another,” Wiley-Gatewood said. “These are my top players on this team. What I am looking for out of them is to lead their teammates and be a good example. They have the leadership, they do. But when they are down on themselves, the team gets down. I need to teach them to stay positive, always.”
The former high school basketball prodigy is also teaching the girls a new style of play.
“We are an uptempo team. We love to rebound and push the ball,” she said. “We are definitely not a setup team. Whoever gets the ball goes, which makes our team so special because everyone can play different positions. I am trying to prepare them for the next level.”
Wiley-Gatewood knows all about a high level of play, but she’s looking forward, not back.
“And, I am just grateful to be a part of their lives, because they are a great group of girls,” Wiley-Gatewood said. “I am just glad to be here.”