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Cal Poly Women's Basketball Senior Spotlight: Lynn Leaupepe

Cal Poly Women's Basketball Senior Spotlight: Lynn Leaupepe

Among the top nine rebounders in the Big West during the 2016-17 season, only one stood shorter than 6-foot-1. That hasn't stopped Cal Poly's Lynn Leaupepe from becoming one of the conference's best.

At 5-foot-9, Leaupepe averaged 7.8 boards while playing mostly small forward as a junior, ranking No. 3 in the league — an exception to the leaderboard's rule — as the rest of the top 10 reached 6-4, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 and 5-5.

"She's maybe the most dangerous offensive rebounder that we've had in our program," Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh says, "and could possibly be the most dangerous offensive rebounder in the league. She's so quick off the ground, has incredible hops and is such a powerful athlete."

Leaupepe's nine double-doubles in 2016-17 tied for the second-most throughout the Big West, culminating in an All-Conference Second Team selection.

Now a senior for the Mustangs — despite recovering from an ankle injury suffered eight games into the year, sidelining her for the next four — Leaupepe ranks No. 9 in school history with 576 rebounds (including 198 offensive).

To start this year, the preseason all-conference choice picked up where she left off, averaging 19.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.3 steals through the opening trio of games, earning College Sports Madness' Big West Player of the Week award on Nov. 20.

Four minutes into the game at Eastern Washington on Dec. 11, however, Leaupepe was dealt a badly sprained ankle.

"Lynn last year had an incredible season," Mimnaugh commented, "and if she didn't have this injury that she's currently trying to gimp through, she would be right there dominating in every (statistical) category. And even in her limited minutes that she's been playing recently, she's still our leading rebounder. As her mobility is starting to return, she's a dominant force on each end of the court."

Still not quite back to 100 percent (estimating closer to 75 or 80 approaching the end of January), "I still feel pain when I'm practicing and playing but try not to think about it," Leaupepe said. "And I usually don't think about it out there. Just day-by-day I'm doing all the recovery stuff."

No. 19 in program history for career scoring with 943 points, Leaupepe also led the Mustangs with 1.7 steals per game a year ago.

"I wanted to work hard in the offseason just to prove I was capable of being a better player," Leaupepe says. "Kind of what allowed me to play more minutes toward the end of my sophomore year was my defensive mindset; I think that just kind of drives my offense."

With 22 career games of three-plus steals, Leaupepe has 148 for her career.

"I thought that her first couple seasons here, that was a dominant aspect of her game," Mimnaugh said. "Her athleticism and speed has always been something that's aided her defensive ability, and she has that mentality to get after it."

Along with her twin sister, fellow Mustang senior Dynn Leaupepe, Lynn shared the 2014 Los Angeles Daily News co-Player of the Year award as a Camarillo High School senior, averaging 20.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 3.8 steals as the Scorpions advanced to the Southern Section Division 1A title game.

"The whole college recruiting process didn't take us a long while to realize how important it is to pick one school you want to go to," Lynn said. "Our high school coach really helped us out a lot with that; he was telling us, 'If they're keeping in contact with you every day, communicating with you, that's something you want in a program' — and that's what Cal Poly did. They were the first ones to come to us and called us all the time just to check up on us."

In addition to scoring along the lines of a 48-point playoff performance that tied Marion Jones for the third-highest game in Ventura County history, Lynn doubled as a track & field standout, ranking 17th throughout the CIF for the shot put, exceeding 43 feet.

"Both obviously were great scorers, but each had their own little niche (in high school)," Mimnaugh recalled. "If I had to compare, I'd say Lynn is a little bit better in back-to-the-basket moves and Dynn's a little bit better at face-up moves; so while they both excel in having an aggressive scorer's mentality, they get there in different ways."

Leaupepe aspires to continue her playing career, perhaps overseas following in the footsteps of the likes of recent alumni Rachel Clancy (Spain), Kristina Santiago (Bulgaria and Israel) and Molly Schlemer (Germany and Turkey). In their dream scenario, Mimnaugh said, they'd love to be a package deal again as teammates, but they might have to end up opponents — something that to this point has happened only in practice, where Mimnaugh anoints them to lead opposing squads.

"They really challenge each other (going head-to-head in practice), and nobody can challenge them the way they challenge each other. They've maintained a great relationship despite the fact that they try to crush each other every day," Mimnaugh said with a laugh.

Following basketball, Lynn would like to stay in sports, maybe involving youth programs or community relations. Focusing in the Sport Management concentration of her Experience Industry Management major, some of Lynn's favorite memories at Cal Poly have come volunteering with Special Olympics of Southern California, among 1,000 hands-on hours related to curriculum.

"I'm just really proud of how she's put the work into her game, but it's not just on the court — it's other facets," Mimnaugh added. "She's the 'quieter' one of the twins, and so branching out this year to take on more and more of a leadership role is something I'm equally proud of."

"She's a tireless worker," Mimnaugh said. "From the get-go when the twins arrived on campus, they were the first ones in the gym. They're constantly trying to improve in every aspect of their game."

Photos © Michael Glasgow & David E. Holmes
By Donovan Aird

Cal Poly is back home to host two Big West Conference games this week, welcoming Hawai'i at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, before returning to Mott Athletics Center vs. UC Riverside at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3.