Rock Bridge faculty describe Sophie Cunningham's heart on and off the court

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COLUMBIA - If you ask Rock Bridge High School coaches and high school staff what they think of newly drafted WNBA player Sophie Cunningham, her basketball skills may not be the first thing that comes to mind.

“I don’t know that you could find someone that had more heart and hustle than her. She had a will to win that was hard to find,” said David Egan, athletic director for Rock Bridge High School.

Cunningham was a junior at Rock Bridge High School when Egan started as the school’s athletic director. During her time in high school, the girls basketball team won four championships. She graduated from RBHS in 2015. Egan said he’s not surprised about her success in the WNBA draft Wednesday night.

“We knew she was projected to be a late first round or early second round pick,” Egan said. “So, we were certainly excited for her, but we knew it was going to happen.”

Cunningham holds records at the University of Missouri for points scored (2,187) and free throws made (537), but the athlete is also known around Columbia for her welcoming personality, down-to-earth spirit, and genuine connection with the community.

The Mizzou guard made history Wednesday night, when she was selected 13th overall in the second round of the 2019 WNBA draft by the Phoenix Mercury, the earliest a Tiger has been picked up in the WNBA. Egan said Cunningham’s competitive spirit is what stands out about her the most.

“There’s no question she was a fierce competitor,” Egan said. “Not just in basketball, but in all the sports she competed in while she was [at Rock Bridge].”

Egan said he speaks for the entire Rock Bridge community when he says they are all extremely proud of Cunningham’s achievements. Among those excited to see where Cunningham would land in the draft was the principal’s secretary of 18 years, Denise McGonigle.

“I immediately turned [the draft] on, and just watched her,” McGonigle said, “It was so exciting to see her on TV and her whole family with her. You know it’s not every day you get to see somebody in that position on the big TV.”

McGonigle says Cunningham has always been very headstrong, but also down to earth.

“She’s so personable,” McGonigle said. “People are just going to gravitate towards her and she’s going to bring so much excitement to Phoenix, just like she did here at Rock Bridge and at MU.”

Cunningham, nicknamed the “Mayor of Columbia” by the community, will soon find herself living outside mid-Missouri for the first time. If Cunningham makes Phoenix’s roster, she will put on a Mercury uniform for the first regular-season game on May 25 against the Seattle Storm.