By Justin Busby
Daulton Lootens signed his national letter of intent on May 1 to play basketball at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks next year.
Lootens will wear a University of Alaska Fairbanks Nooks basketball jersey next season after completing his second year with the Whatcom Orcas.
Lootens was a part of the team that made an appearance at the NWAC Men’s Basketball final last year and was a key role in the Orca’s appearance in the post-season tournament this year.
Lootens was the tallest member of the Orca’s basketball team at 6 foot 6 inches, making him the key man for controlling the center position and fighting for the hoop. However, compared to other teams in the division, Whatcom has one of the shortest lineups in terms of stature while most teams have two or three players around 6’ 9”.
Lootens didn’t let that stop him as he powered himself to an average of nearly 11 points a game, 7.64 rebounds, while also recording double-doubles in three of his last five regular season and playoff games as an Orca. For Lootens, basketball wasn’t always a straight path to the hoop, in fact in his junior year at Lynden Christian high school, he didn’t make the team.
“I played two years on the C-Team as a freshman and as a sophomore. I was a 5’ 8” freshman and wasn’t very athletic at all,” said Lootens. “During the summer leading up to my junior season I knew I was undersized and had some work to do, but I did not put in enough time and I was cut completely from the program.”
This was really hard for Lootens to accept at the time, but instead of being discouraged, Lootens says he spent nearly every free moment he could in the gym getting better at his game.
Through hard work and determination, and a growth spurt to 6’ 5”, Lootens made the team senior year.
Coming off a state title two years before, Lynden Christian’s basketball program was full of quality players making Lootens return to the team not the easiest in terms of receiving minutes.
Lootens didn’t start a game his senior season, and when the Lyncs lost by just three points in an overtime tri-district playoff, he decided his basketball career wouldn’t end with high school.
“I got in touch with Chris Scrimsher who used to be the head basketball coach and the acting athletic director at the time and gave me an opportunity to walk-on the basketball team in the summer, Lootens said. “David Dunham, who was the coach for the first two years I was at Whatcom, accepted me and allowed me to play a redshirt role my first year.”
A redshirt is a player who only practices and doesn’t play in any games during the whole year.
The coaches took note of Lootens’ work ethic and attitude and added him to the team. Lootens says sitting out of all the games and only watching that season was hard, but going to the gym and practicing with the other redshirts Quinn Daugharty and Taylor Bahr helped him focus on lifting weights and getting stronger for the next year.
Lootens credits the redshirts and the freshman players around him for helping him “gain a lot of knowledge about the game and how to train.”
He also credits coach Mike Wade for being there when Coach Dunham left for Western.
“Even when Dunham stepped down and it seemed everyone was leaving the program, (coach) Wade stayed and was there for the returners.”
Wade commends Lootens for his progress not only on the court, but for his considerable role off the court as a captain and all-around positive influence to the rest of the team.
“He’s continued to push himself to be comfortable being uncomfortable, and continually working to get better. Really looking forward to seeing him to do great things up there and we’ll miss him around here, but we won’t miss his goofy locker room antics.” Wade said.
Wade says that he thinks Lootens will succeed as a Nook, especially under coach Mike Durham, the coach from Alaska Fairbanks. Wade says Durham will notice Lootens’ particular style of play of spreading the floor and shooting from multiple distances, and play him into mismatches to unleash that.
“I can see him playing power forward and center for Alaska Fairbanks,” Wade said. “Adding that banging and bruising to his game in the center position this year rounded out his game a bit more while pushing himself to do his best will really help his transition to the next level.”
The University of Alaska Fairbanks is a Division II school playing in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC), the same conference as the Western Washington University, the current champions of the conference.
Lootens is looking forward to playing against friends and former teammates Matt Seymour and Logan Schilder who play for the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves and the Western Washington Vikings respectively.
Basketball isn’t the only reason for heading North, Lootens is also interested in Alaska Fairbanks’ engineering program which ranks as one of the top programs in the GNAC.
Their engineering building is getting a 120,000 square foot expansion which helped sway his decision.
Lootens credits his coaches from Lynden Christian coach Lee Beld and Roger Deboer for mentoring him. He also credits the coaches of Whatcom, coach Dunham and coach Wade, as well as head coach Tom Rawlings for joining the team in Sept. and appreciates everything Rawlings did for the team.