Western’s Teel to be inducted into Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame
Melissa Teel said she was extremely surprised when she received word that she’d be part of the induction class of 2018 into the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
She may have been the only one who was surprised.
After all, the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame prides itself on honoring those who have “contributed to the enhancement of women’s basketball in Connecticut — either through participation, service, support, or achievement.”
Teel, an All-American as a senior at Western Connecticut State University in 2011, has done all of that. And while she will be inducted based primarily on her accomplishments as a college player, she has only just begun show what she can do as a coach, and she is looking forward to spending a lifetime teaching and molding young players.
“Some of my favorite things about coaching are the players and passing on what I have learned to other young women, and hopefully being a role model for them in the same way so many women have been for me,” said Teel, who teaches English at Danbury High School.
Teel, a 6-foot-2 center out of Hamden High School, arrived at Western in the fall of 2007 just a few months after leading coach John Ceneri’s Dragons to the Class LL state quarterfinals. She had skills, she had athleticism — and she had no idea of the incredible heights she would soon reach.
“As a high school player, you think you’re working hard and you think you’re giving your 100 percent, and walking into college on that first day, you realize you really weren’t,” Teel said. “There’s is so much that you are capable of, and that you haven’t really pushed yourself. That’s one of the reasons why I am so thankful to (Western coach Kim Rybczyk). She pushed me so far out of my comfort zone and so far beyond any expectations I had ever set for myself in basketball. I absolutely would not have become the player I became without her.”
In her freshman season with coach Kim Rybczyk’s Colonials, Teel played in 22 games, averaged 7.5 minutes per game and tallied 65 points, 80 rebounds and a team-high 28 blocks. From there, Teel proceeded to carve out one of the most impressive basketball careers in Western’s history. She was the first Western player, male or female, to score 1,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds. She graduated with a program-record 1,052 career rebounds and a program-record 367 career blocks, along with the fifth-highest scoring total in program history with 1,184 points. She led the Colonials to three consecutive berths in the NCAA Division III national tournament.
Teel was a 2011 State Farms Coaches All-American — only the third All-American in program history — and became the first player to be named the Little East Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same year. In 2010, she led the country in Division III in blocked shots and was a fifth-team Women’s Division III News All-American.
While her many accomplishments live on through Western’s record books, the fond memories and lifelong friendships have lived on as well.
“My teammates at Western have become my best friends,” she said. “The friendships and relationships I got to build in college are the friendships I know are going to last me the rest of my life. Winning or losing, there were just so many memories we created together. Growing into women and going through those experiences, the ups and the downs, together, those relationships don’t just go away.”
When her playing career at Western ended, Teel received offers to play professionally in Brazil and England. She turned them down so she could pursue her dream of becoming a teacher.
“Teaching has always been my passion. I’ve known for most of life that I wanted to impact others in that way. It was just so important to me to work for that degree and to use it. Teaching has always been a dream of mine, and having that impact on people is priceless.”
Teel hooked on as an assistant coach with the Danbury High School girls basketball team, and learned her craft under the tutelage of longtime Hatters coach Jackie DiNardo — who was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012. This past season, Teel returned to Western and served as an assistant on Rybczyk’s staff.
“It was fun to be on the other side of the program,” Teel said. “When you’re coaching, you suddenly understand the importance of all the things you didn’t think about when you’re 20 years old. The things that go over your head, and the life lessons that don’t really feel like life lessons in the moment, when you’re a coach, you go back and you realize how some of those things are going impact you later on.”
Teel will join former Western players Trish Neary (inducted in 1998), Jennifer Dayton (2001) and Amy Matthews McKenna (2013) in the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I’m just overwhelmed with a sense of appreciation for the people who nominated me,” Teel said. “You just kind of look back on everyone who has been an influence on you. Every coach, every teacher, over the course of your career. I hope they know that I couldn’t get this without them. I couldn’t be where I am without them.”
The induction ceremony is set for April 18 at Cascade, located at 480 Sherman Avenue in Hamden. Cocktails at 6 p.m. will be followed by dinner. Tickets are $50 each and include complimentary wine. Go online to ctwomensbasketballhalloffame.com for ticket information.
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