Posts Tagged ‘Basketball’

Nicole Laxton, the smile that never stopped. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Heart, above all else.

In the end, we appreciate talent, we respect it, we acknowledge it.

But we love heart.

I’m not going to tell you Nicole Laxton is the most talented athlete I have ever seen play. If I did, she would roll her eyes, shake her head and walk off, giggling.

But I will tell you she has as much heart, and radiates as much joy, as any Wolf I have ever written about. And that is the stone cold truth.

Nicole, a 2019 Coupeville High School grad who played four years of basketball and softball for the red and black, exists in a special place.

She, like Jae LeVine or Jared Helmstadter before her, approached every game, every practice, every road trip, as if it was a gift.

Nicole was the smile that never stopped.

Not even when she smacked her head on a sharp piece of wood jutting out of the back of the CHS softball dugout.

Not even when she was drilled for the 10,412th time by a wayward pitch, as she was the greatest ball magnet the sport has ever seen.

And not even when I would quietly holler “Charge the mound!!” after every time she collected another fastball to the thigh or ankle or quad.

“I can’t do that, don’t be silly!!,” Nicole would say, rolling her eyes at me, her smile covering the pain arcing through her body.

And then she would hobble down to first base, reassure CHS assistant coach Ron Wright she was just fine and dandy, and he should stop worrying so much, before stealing second, punctuating it with a ferocious flop/dive under the tag.

Nicole hit a couple big baskets on the hardwood and smacked a crucial hit or two as the Wolf softball team returned to state this spring, punching its ticket for the first time in five seasons.

But she wasn’t about the stats.

She was all about bouncing on the bag at second, covered head to toe in prairie dust, cheeks pink in the sun, shooting finger guns at the dugout while giggling as they roared for her steal.

She was about ending up on the basketball court, sprawled out, ball held in her arms like a vise, as she out-wrestled four rivals for possession of a rebound.

And she was about the road trips.

Giggling on the bus about wearing her grandma’s slippers with her softball uniform.

Hanging out on the ferry with her friends, and, occasionally, dishing “the tea” to gathered reporters in a hushed whisper, complete with side eye and arched eyebrow.

Athletes come and go, walking the hallways at CHS and occupying the courts, fields, and diamonds.

Then, one day, they’re gone, on to hopefully bigger and better things in their life.

While many blur together after awhile — even the talented ones — there are a select few who remain vibrant in our memories long after they take off the Wolf uniform for the final time.

Nicole is one of those select few.

Her life hasn’t always been the easiest, but she has endured and prospered, tackling every obstacle with an open heart and a welcoming smile.

Seeing her play was a treat. Knowing her in “real life,” even more so.

I will remember Nicole, of that I have no doubt.

Induction into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame arrives for a lot of reasons.

Talent, stats, titles, medals, they carry many into my mythical little hall of digital wonders.

But not all legends are built the same way.

Nicole, if she never recorded a hit, never sank a basket, would still be here. Her character, her spirit, her heart, is what assured her enshrinement.

After this, when you look at the top of the blog, under the Legends tab, you’ll find Miss Laxton right where she belongs.

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CHS hoops stars got to watch professional players in action Friday. (Photos courtesy Scott Fox)

The Wolves meet Seattle Storm standout Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

Past connections pay off.

New Coupeville High School girls basketball coach Scott Fox was a firefighter and fire captain in California before retiring to Whidbey.

During that time he worked 20 years with the father of Seattle Storm standout Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, seeing her rise from a junior high star to the national high school player of the year, then a three-time national champion at the University of Connecticut.

Friday night Fox got a chance to take seven CHS seniors to watch her play in person, as the Storm bounced the LA Sparks 84-62 at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett.

The Wolves – Tia Wurzrainer, Jered Brown, Hannah Davidson, Gavin Knoblich, Avalon Renninger, Jacobi Pilgrim, and Scout Smith – also got to meet Mosqueda-Lewis.

The 25-year-old small forward has enjoyed a stellar career at every level.

Mosqueda-Lewis was the ESPN National Player of the Year in 2010 and 2011, while adding the State Farm/WBCA High School Player of the Year, Naismith High School Player of the Year, and Gatorade National Player of the Year her senior season.

She captured gold medals four times while playing for different Team USA squads, was a three-time national champion at UConn, and won a 2018 WNBA title with the Storm.

Mosqueda-Lewis also holds the NCAA D-I women’s career record for made three-point shots, rattling home 398 three-balls, while shooting a crisp 44.7% from behind the arc.

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Future Wolf hoops stars learn the game in a fun environment during a skills camp. (Photos courtesy Brad Sherman)

Randy King (back, all black shirt) and CHS players teach proper shooting motion.

Scott Fox (hands up) works with older players.

The past, present, and future of Coupeville basketball mingles.

The future Brad Sherman’s of Wolf basketball got to pick up a few lessons from the old-school version.

The Coupeville High School boys basketball coach, and legendary former player, joined up with fellow hoops coaches Thursday and Friday to run a successful skills camp for Coupeville athletes in grades K-8.

The two-day affair drew 75+ basketball players, split between girls and boys.

Sherman was joined by fellow coachesĀ Scott Fox, Chris Smith, Megan Smith, Randy King, Greg White, and Randy Bottorff, as well as current CHS players.

Players were divided into four groups (K-1, 2-3, 4-6, and 7-8) and were offered a great learning opportunity in a fun environment.

As Coupeville coaches build local basketball programs to be strong from top to bottom, the skills camp is a welcome flashback to the sort of events held when Sherman, Megan Smith, and White were young players themselves.

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From little league through high school ball, Aaron Trumbull was a class act. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Aaron Trumbull was a rock.

When you look back on his athletic career, the word which pops up most often is “consistent.”

He crossed paths with big-time stars like Ben Etzell, Josh Bayne, Aaron Curtin, and Nick Streubel, to name a few, but he not only held his own, his stats can stand with anyone from his time period.

And he did it all in a quiet, classy manner that can’t, and shouldn’t, be overlooked.

Trumbull delivered big hits, threw big pitches, and sank big buckets, but he approached every game in the same manner – as a solid pro.

He was a key player on a little league team which won a state title, finished higher on the CHS boys basketball career scoring chart than you probably think, but also shone brightly in small moments.

That he’s not already in the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame is a surprise and a shame.

I whiffed on this one somehow, but better late than never.

Today we throw open the doors to our lil’ digital wonderland, and welcome Mr. Trumbull to a club which couldn’t be complete without him.

After this, every time you look at the top of the blog, then peek under the Legends tab, you’ll find him strolling by, confident in his own abilities, but never one to scream and holler about how great he was.

Like older sister Alexis, who is also in the Hall o’ Fame, Aaron just went about his day, and let his actions speak for themselves.

He was a star as a young player, part of the 2010 Central Whidbey Little League Juniors baseball team which, under the guidance of coach Chris Tumblin, rumbled to an unexpected state title.

In the championship game, Trumbull came through twice with the pressure on, helping Coupeville upend West Valley 10-9 in 10 innings.

Down three runs entering the seventh, and final, regular inning, Trumbull, Wade Schaef, and Morgan Payne all delivered base-knocks as Central Whidbey rallied to force extra innings.

Then, in the 10th, it was Trumbull who rapped a single to plate Jake Tumblin with the game, and title-winning, run.

Once he hit high school, Trumbull continued to soar, both as a baseball player and basketball star.

His time on the hardwood came at a time when Coupeville’s fortunes were at an all-time low, as losses piled up and the team adapted to a new system after Randy King’s retirement.

Through it all, Trumbull was, as I said before, a rock.

He fought like a devil on the boards, crashed for loose balls, and did what he could to put points in the book for a Wolf team which struggled to generate much offense.

In fact, Trumbull finished with 330 career points, which leaves him sitting as the #77 scorer across 102 years of CHS boys basketball.

On the baseball diamond, whether he was flinging heat from the mound, or holding down first base, he was as steady as they come.

The hardball team had more success during his years at CHS than the basketball team did, and Trumbull was always a big part of that.

But, his impact went beyond wins and losses, or stats.

One of the defining moments of Coupeville athletics is one 99% of people never saw happen, or never heard about.

Late in his career, the Wolves had a number of JV players, but not enough to field a full nine-man lineup.

That meant a different varsity player or two had to fill in each game, to give their teammates a chance to see the field.

It went pretty well, until one Wolf decided they were above it all, and threw a hissy fit at the suggestion they could, for one day, “play down.”

As the JV players milled around, and the other team tried to avoid eye contact with CHS coach Willie Smith as he edged towards going into full-on stroke mode, Trumbull stood up and left the bench.

He had already pulled JV duty in a previous game, and was a much-bigger varsity star than the player throwing the hissy fit, and yet it mattered not to him.

Instead, Trumbull strode over, snatched the ball from his red-faced teammate, turned to the JV players, said “let’s do this,” and led them on the field.

That moment, above all others, above his state title-winning base-knock, or the buckets he hit while being double and triple-teamed, goes to the very core of who Aaron was, is, and will always be.

He didn’t leave teammates behind, didn’t leave them hanging, didn’t embarrass them.

Aaron Trumbull is among the classiest players to ever pull on a Wolf uniform, and he earned his spot in our Hall of Fame every single day he played.

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“So, who’s a brand-new Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame inductee? That’d be me, one Lindsey Roberts.” (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Predicting athletic success for young children is a complicated task.

For every guy with a beard in middle school who never quite becomes a full-fledged star in high school, there’s an undersized little league bench warmer who soars to new heights down the road.

Which is why people with far more restraint and knowledge often remind me not to get too gaga over a 6th grader who can dribble with both hands and start calling them “The Chosen One.”

A lot can change between elementary school and high school, some positive, some negative, and it all impacts young athletes as they flow from 11 or 12 to 18.

Injuries happen. Families move. Young athletes lose their love for a game for any of a thousand different reasons.

Romantic entanglements, drug or alcohol use, academic struggles, it can all pile up.

But then, on the flip side, there are those who blossom, who grow taller, stronger, quicker, or just prove that heart can outweigh physical advantages.

Those who receive crucial support, from family, from coaches, from friends, that piles up too, but in a positive way.

So, when I see an athlete in elementary school, I need to remember all of this. And some days I do.

But there are times when you just know.

Times when you watch a young girl or boy playing in a game and know, 10,000% percent, that, barring a catastrophic change in fortunes, you are seeing someone who is a star now, and someone who will be a star in the future.

Lindsey Roberts was, and is, one of those rarities.

The daughter of two Coupeville High School Athlete of the Year winners, and a niece, granddaughter, sister and cousin to other very-talented athletes, she had a lot going for her from the very start.

But it was obvious, even when she was boppin’ through elementary school, that she wanted success more than most, that she was willing to work for it, and that she would handle it with grace when it arrived.

The past six years, through middle and high school, she has been arguably one of the two or three best athletes wearing a Coupeville uniform.

Makana Stone exists on a different plateau from every Wolf athlete I have ever written about, but Lindsey is firmly in that group right behind her.

You can place Lou with Hunter Smith and Valen Trujillo, with Madeline Strasburg and Josh Bayne, with Wiley Hesselgrave and Maya Toomey-Stout, and know, without a doubt, she belongs in the pantheon.

In middle school, Roberts was a standout volleyball and basketball player, and a fireball who utterly destroyed fools in track and field.

Once she hit the hallways of CHS, she achieved what few do.

There was never a second of her high school career when she was anything less than a varsity star.

Not just a four-year varsity athlete, which, in itself, is something few Wolves have achieved, but a genuine supernova.

Yes, she lettered the maximum 12 times, four each in soccer, basketball, and track, but as she did so, she was more, much more – a starter, a team leader, a go-to warrior, all from day one.

The bench was no place for Roberts, and, if she sat there for more than a few seconds at a time, it was a genuine surprise.

We can list all her accolades.

She’s the #3 scorer in CHS girls soccer history, despite playing much of her career on the defensive side of the ball.

She’s the #18 scorer among Wolf girls basketball players, and that’s a program with decades more history than soccer.

Plus, Roberts sacrificed points to others who were more of a shoot-first type of player, content to snatch rebounds, get out on the break, and do the dirty work, then get her points within the system.

And then there’s track and field, where she’s simply #1.

No other female athlete in the 119-year history of her school, not even Makana, can match the eight competitive medals Roberts won across four state track meets.

She went back to Cheney every year, she brought medals home every time, and she never looked happier than when seen in photos from the often-broiling cauldron at Eastern Washington University.

But, stats only tell part of the story.

Roberts, possibly as much as any CHS athlete I have covered, lived and breathed team, team, team.

Pick a sport, give her a task, and she would excel, making her extremely valuable.

Look, I’m not in the locker room, or on the bus, and I try to stay out of the athlete’s personal lives, to give them at least a moment or two to themselves.

But I have eyes, and I have ears, and, by the end, you have a pretty good idea of what kind a person you’re writing about.

So, I feel very confident when I hail Lindsey, not just as an athlete, but as a person.

She never shied away from the big moment. Never backed down from any foe, regardless of the name on the front of the uniform. Never gave anything less than her best.

A lot of athletes come and go. Some make impacts, others are just here.

A few, a very few, truly impress us.

Lindsey Roberts has impressed me, always, and I have no doubt she will continue to do so.

She was a slam dunk to be inducted into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame years ago, and the only reason it hasn’t happened until today is she had to, you know, actually graduate first.

Now, diploma in hand, Roberts sets out to achieve greatness in other parts of her life.

But, she can always look back home, to her photo, which will soon hang in the CHS gym hallway among other Athlete of the Year winners, and, to the top of this blog, where she’ll live under the Legends tab.

She was one of the greats as a little girl, she is one of the greats now as a young woman, and she’ll always be one of the greats.

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