It’s common to hear teammates refer to themselves as a family, but for senior forward Keilani Unga there is a real-life family to care of off the court.
Unga returns to the Lady Cougars hoops squad after missing the last two seasons. She joins graduate guard Haley Steed as this year’s team leaders.
“I think we’re at least two years older than anyone else on the team so we’ve just kind of taken on the motherly role,” said Steed.
It’s a role that Unga is already familiar with. At BYU it is not uncommon for athletes to leave their sport for two years as many choose to serve missions; but during her time away from the team, Keilani married former Cougar running back Harvey Unga and gave birth to two kids – Leila and Jackson. BYU Head Coach Jeff Judkins knows it is difficult to return to the game of basketball after going through what Unga did.
“It’s harder on your body; it’s harder mentally. You don’t get to sleep at night because you’re worried about your kid, so what Keilani’s gone through is a lot harder than being gone on a two year mission,” Judkins said.
That’s not stopping this mom from playing the game she loves. Unga said she was nervous at first to return to the team, but it wasn’t long before she felt back at home.
“There’s so much positivity and so much desire to be a great team that you can just feel it. So right when I came on I just felt welcome and they were so nice to me,” said Unga.
Whether she’s dishing out dinner or dishing out dimes, this Lady Cougar will be taking care of two families this season.