Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Sports Person of the Week

Rooney Wille Comes Back Home for Hall of Fame Ceremony


Brianna Rooney Wille had an excellent career playing basketball and soccer at Guilford High School, setting school records in each sport. This summer, Brianna was inducted into the Guilford High School Athletics Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of Brianna Rooney Wille

Brianna Rooney Wille had an excellent career playing basketball and soccer at Guilford High School, setting school records in each sport. This summer, Brianna was inducted into the Guilford High School Athletics Hall of Fame. (Photo courtesy of Brianna Rooney Wille )

Throughout the entire time that she was playing basketball at Guilford High School and Quinnipiac University, Brianna Rooney Wille’s focus was always zeroed in on the sport that she had started playing as a three year-old. If it wasn’t on a 24-7 basis, it was pretty darn close for Brianna, who was a multi-time All-State athlete in both soccer and basketball at Guilford. Brianna was recently recognized for her achievements as an Indians’ athlete when she was inducted into the Guilford High School Athletics Hall of Fame.

Now, a few years removed from helping Quinnipiac transition into a Division I program, Brianna lives in Virginia Beach with her husband Chris and their two children: Peyton, 3, and Declan, 1. Instead of bouncing basketballs or kicking soccer balls, Brianna works as a 3rd-grade teacher in Virginia Beach.

When Brianna got the call notifying her that she’d been selected for the Hall of Fame, she came back home to Guilford for the induction ceremony this summer.

“I was told that I’d been nominated for the Hall of Fame. It was exciting news to hear,” says Brianna, who graduated from Guilford in 2005. “They needed to know if I could make the banquet. The answer was, ‘Yes.’”

Brianna, whose nickname at Guilford was “Breezy,” became the second member of her family to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Brianna’s sister Megan, who was also an All-Stater in basketball at Guilford, was inducted five years ago. Ironically, Brianna’s father Jim, who coached both her and Megan in high school and accumulated more than 300 wins in his 37-year career (12 of which were spent at Guilford), hasn’t been selected yet.

“We have fun with that one,” Brianna says. “I know that his name is on the radar. It will be another happy day for the Rooney family when it happens.”

While several years have passed since Brianna competed for the Indians, she still has plenty of fond memories from that experience.

“It was and always will be about the players on those teams. We had a solid core. I still think about Ashley [Bruton], Kerry [Bowman], and Kristen [Connelly],” says Brianna. “We all grew up together and played AAU basketball from a young age on. They were my best friends. Once we got on the court, we knew each others’ moves like the backs of our hands.”

Like all parents who coach their kids, Jim Rooney understood that he needed to do a balancing act while working with Brianna. Rooney knew that Brianna had the skills and maturity to start for his squad as a point guard at the outset, although he was hesitant to put her in starting lineup at first.

“When Brianna was a freshman, I didn’t want to start her at the point,” Rooney says. “I talked it over with my assistants at the time. We agreed that we would put an offense into our system that would help her. Give her some time to adjust.”

However, that strategy was quickly scrapped when Brianna went out and scored 18 points in her first game, showing that she was able to adapt to the high school game right away. Brianna would go on to score a school record total of 1,410 points, while helping Guilford win Class L state titles in 2002 and 2003. She eclipsed her sister Megan’s mark of 1,014 points as a junior.

Unfortunately, Brianna suffered two torn ACLs during her high school career. The first one happened when she tore her left ACL during the State Tournament in 2004. After working her way back to the court for her senior year, Brianna’s career with the Indians came to an abrupt end when she suffered a torn right ACL midway through the season.

“Both of them happened at Shelton High School,” Brianna says. “I only played there twice. I never plan to go back there.”

Brianna also displayed great skills on the soccer pitch with the Indians. As a member of the girls’ soccer squad, Brianna scored 70 career goals, which is tied for the school record. After graduating from Guilford, Brianna went to Quinnipiac, where Megan also played basketball.

“I had looked at a few other schools,” says Brianna. “At the time, Quinnipiac was emerging into Division I. I wanted to go to a school where I could get the maximum amount of playing time. I might not gave gotten that at another DI college.”

Brianna earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and later received her master’s in education at Quinnipiac. Looking back, Brianna says that she made the right move by attending the school.

Coach [Tricia] Fabbri was just starting to build the program,” Brianna says. “I really enjoy following them now. They eventually moved into the MAAC [Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference], and they’ve begun to make some noise on the national scene. I continue to follow them. I still enjoy women’s college basketball as much as I can.”

Brianna’s return to Guilford for the Hall of Fame ceremony gave her a chance to spend some time with her sisters Megan, Kelly Anne, and Kathleen, as well as her mother Linda and her dad. Brianna says the experience of playing basketball for her father in her hometown will always be a priceless one.

“It was a great experience playing for him,” says Brianna. “He was an intense coach. Sure, we had our ups and downs. I’m sure that every daughter who has been coached by her father would say that. But at the end of the day, it was rewarding and a joy to be a part of my dad’s teams.”

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