Whatcom basketball enters home stretch

Story by Kara Veldman, photos by Vica Kazantseva

This year, the basketball teams at Whatcom Community College have the strongest sense of family than in any other year.

“It has been a pleasure to coach this year’s team,” said David Dunham, who is in his 13th year of coaching the men’s basketball team at Whatcom. “The makeup of the team makes it really fun because all the guys get along well. We all laugh a lot, but when it’s time to be serious we know how to pull it together.”

Dunham, who is also the Interim Associate Director for Athletics, grew up in Pasadena, Calif. He went to Lewis & Clark College in Idaho where he played basketball and majored in kinesiology, which the study of human movement.

Whatcom forward Casey Leek puts up a jumper against Bellevue College
Whatcom forward Casey Leek puts up a jumper against Bellevue College

“From the ninth grade I knew I wanted to coach basketball,” Dunham said. “All of my basketball-playing and decision-making about my future revolved around coaching.”

Logan Schilder, 19, plays center for the Orcas, said, “The team dynamic is really good. We all get along really well, and don’t argue that much, which is different than last year from what I’ve heard.” Graduating from Bellingham High School last spring, this is his second quarter at Whatcom. Schilder has been playing basketball for two and a half years now, and his goal for this season is to “see the sophomores move on and secure scholarships.”

The preseason went very well for the team, Dunham said. The team was ranked second out of 34 teams in the NWAAC division. Before the season started, the Orcas beat Spokane, which was the number one ranked team at the time. However, according the NWAC site the Orcas continued to be ranked second.

“This affected the team in a big way, and we lost the next three games,” Dunham said. “We are currently tied for fifth with seven more games to go.”

This year the Orcas are putting their focus on playing as a team on the court, and being successful in the classroom as well. The team’s average GPA is 3.1.

“The number one goal of any coach is to get the guys scholarships to the next level. We want them to use Whatcom as a tool to develop and sharpen their skills, on the court and in the classroom,” Dunham said.

Matt Seymour, 20, a sophomore at Whatcom, grew up in Juneau, Alaska, and has been playing basketball since the fifth grade.

“I love playing with this year’s team, there’s a lot of camaraderie,” Seymour said. “Our season has so far been sub-par, but we’re on a two-win streak now so it’s getting better. Our hope is to win the NWAC Championships this season.”

Seymour said he is hoping to get a scholarship next year to play basketball at a university, with an eye towards coaching in the future.

“It’s been an exciting season with the returning players, seeing the team gel the way it has. It’s been fun to coach these young men,” Dunham said.

The women’s team went into this season with a different approach. With only one returning player, they knew it would be a tough year of growth, said head coach Kevin Davis. “We went into this season with the long haul in mind,” he said. Davis grew up in West Seattle, playing basketball throughout high school and then at Edmonds Community College. He started coaching 10-year-olds the summer after he graduated high school. It was there he decided that he wanted to pursue a career coaching basketball. Davis was the assistant coach for the men’s team the previous season, moving up to the head coaching position of the woman’s team this season. The team’s goal this season is to continue to get better and better.

“The girls are excellent,” said Davis. “Their attitudes and camaraderie have been great, which makes it a lot easier.”

Whatcom guard Matthew Seymour shoots a three pointer
Whatcom guard Matthew Seymour shoots a three pointer

“We want to compete, but also ensure that players are having fun. There’s a balance,” Davis said. “I’m very satisfied with the efforts the players are giving. With injuries and illnesses we can only play games with six people. They give it everything they got.”

Bella Nigretto, 19, and Cheyanna Maxwell, 20, are co-captains on this year’s team.

“I like Whatcom a lot,” said Nigretto. “I enjoy my teammates. I was the only walk-on at the beginning of the season, and having nine new best friends is pretty cool. It’s fun to be around people who know what they’re doing and passionate about the sport.” Her goal as captain is “to motivate my team and make sure everyone is enjoying the experience, playing smart and as a team, and finishing the last half of the season well.” Nigretto grew up on Orcas Island in the San Juans, and has been at Whatcom for four quarters. She has been playing basketball competitively since the fourth grade, and “if the opportunity presents itself, would love to play for a university.”

Maxwell, has been playing since the sixth grade, and is in her second year at Whatcom. She is the only returning player from last year, and says that “I like this season much better.”

Maxwell said, “We all love each other a lot; it was a very quick family. We all get along very well. If we ever bump heads on the court, we work it out right away and it never affects our friendship.”

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