By Justin Busby
Lynden Christian’s Shaye Brandsma and Kylee Engholm from Mount Baker of the 2016 class, Lynden’s Mariah Gonzalez, Meridian’s Kiana Gray, Sehome’s Samantha Hruby, Nooksack Valley’s Rachel Sande, Lynden Christian’s Emma Stump, Cornerstone Christian’s Elissa Vreugdenhil, and Blaine’s Kjirstin Larson all signed letters of intent to Whatcom on Saturday, April 1. Larson also will be playing volleyball in the fall for the Orcas.
With most of the current players completing their second year of eligibility, Coach Kevin Davis needed to bring in a large group of athletes to fill the spaces on the roster.
Davis was keen on replacing his nearly all-sophomore team with a large class of freshman to play with the Orcas for two years, a factor he thinks will help build strong team chemistry.
“All of them grew up playing youth basketball and were on select teams together, so they’re familiar with each other which I think is going to be huge in the long run,” Davis said on their previous connections.
The size of the incoming group will allow Davis to rotate his players more and give his starters breaks throughout games, something that he couldn’t do last season with the small lineup and limited substitutes.
Sande, an all-around player from Nooksack Valley High School, averaged 12.3 points per game and helped the Pioneers to an 11-9 finish in the Northwest District.
Sande is focused on bringing skills she learned in her senior season into the college level with a group of girls she has experience with.
“I’ve played against a lot of them my whole life and it will be nice to actually all be on one team and be able to use each other’s strengths together. Also, just seeing the difference between college and high school ball,” Sande said on her new teammates and next year’s season.
One familiar face to the Orca’s basketball organization will be sophomore Jacqueline Case, who couldn’t participate because of transfer rules, after joining from the Skagit Valley Cardinals.
Case practiced with the team throughout the year, participating in pre-game drills and shooting exercises.
Case is looking forward to playing with the recruits and the changes in tactics that Davis will implement.
“I’m excited for the recruits, I know that our coaches worked hard to find them, so they’ll be a great group. I think our outside game will be stronger and we will have to focus a bit more there since we don’t have a specific post to go to,” Case said on the signees.
The Orcas are still missing the puzzle piece to replace center Linsey Honeycutt, the core of both the offensive and defensive sides of play during last season.
Davis is looking for that last recruit to fill the gap, but admits it’ll be a challenge for anyone to replace Honeycutt’s on-court impact, averaging 29.22 points per game and 14.91 rebounds per game.