One of Damian Chong Qui’s objectives is to play professionally — either in the NBA or overseas. So finding a college basketball program that will help him reach that goal is the most significant reason why the Mount St. Mary’s point guard entered the NCAA transfer portal on Friday.
“I just want to explore my options to see what’s out there,” Chong Qui said Saturday afternoon. “I’ve always talked about how my goal is to be a pro and play at the highest level and see what my options are and what may or may not be a good situation for me to be able to get to that next level. So I just want to see what’s out there and test the waters and see if there are any schools out there that would want me on their team so that I can showcase myself and see if I can play at that level.”
Chong Qui, a Baltimore resident and McDonogh graduate, led the Northeast Conference in assists at 5.3 per game and ranked 11th in points at 15.1 per game. He also collected 4.2 rebounds per game despite being listed as 5 feet, 8 inches and 155 pounds.
A member of the Northeast Conference’s first team, Chong Qui was a key cog in the Mountaineers capturing their first tournament championship and playing in their first NCAA postseason since 2017.
Chong Qui said he deliberated for two weeks before making the decision to enter his name into the portal. He said even minutes before he met with coach Dan Engelstad on Friday, he wasn’t entirely certain he would enter the portal.
“Probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” he said. “It was a tough decision, but whatever decision I make is going to ultimately end up changing the rest of my life and what I want to do. I don’t want to graduate with any regrets of what I could have done or accomplished. So I’m just opening up my options.”
If Chong Qui does leave, freshman Dakota Leffew (4.5 points, 1.9 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 11 games before suffering a broken wrist) and junior Deandre Thomas (8.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists) would likely compete to succeed him as the starting point guard.
The team is expected to return four of its other five starters in conference Defensive Player of the Year and junior power forward Nana Opuku (10.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks), junior small forward Mezie Offurum (9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals), junior power forward Malik Jefferson (8.0 points and 7.8 rebounds) and freshman shooting guard Josh Reaves (7.0 points and 2.5 rebounds).
Engelstad kept the door open for Chong Qui to return.
“We are appreciative of everything that Damian Chong Qui has done for our program,” he said. “We hope that he continues with us. Our focus will always be trying to elevate Mount St. Mary’s basketball and keep building upon our championship season this year.”
Chong Qui said Albany, Elon, Florida Gulf Coast and Radford have already reached out. He said he does not have a timetable for making a decision and said that an offer from a school in a Power 5 school would not be the sole reason for transferring.
Engelstad signs contract extension
After leading Mount St. Mary’s to the 2021 NCAA tournament, Engelstad signed a three-year contract extension, announced Monday by director of athletics Lynne Robinson.
In his third season with the Mountaineers, he led the Mount to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2017 with road wins at Wagner and Bryant in the Northeast Conference Tournament. The Mount posted its first winning season since the 2017-18 campaign.
“I am thankful for the opportunity to continue to lead and build upon our foundation and our 2021 Championship,” Engelstad said in a release. “My family and I are humbled by and thrilled to be a part of this Mount Community. I am grateful for the commitment of the administration, the dedication of my staff and the hard work of our players.”
Engelstad was the head coach at Southern Vermont College for five seasons prior to arriving in Emmitsburg, leading the program to a 104-34 record over that span. He served as an assistant coach at Holy Cross (2010-13) and at the Mount (2007-10) before heading to Southern Vermont.
“Over the past three years, Dan’s dedicated leadership of the men’s basketball program has been tremendous,” Robinson said. “In addition to the team’s outstanding success on the basketball court this past season, Dan has maintained a tireless commitment to the welfare and academic success of our student-athletes.”