I spent a few years over in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, covering Lakeside High School down on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation.
I remember talking to Coeur d’Alene tribal member Tim Wolfe one day about his shooting stroke. Whenever he’d get into a shooting funk, he said, “I just keep moving back, until it comes back.” One minute he’s shooting 3-pointers, then 20-footers and if he still could find the groove, he’d put ‘em up from 24-25-feet. Seemed like he’d be taking a couple of steps over the midcourt line then fire a shot at the basket, shooters are funny like that sometimes. Whatever brings back the mojo.
Timmy didn’t get recruited right out of high school and finally hooked up with Salish Kootenai College over on the Flathead Reservation in Pablo, Mont. Playing college ball was a dream come true for Tim, his family and his people.
When Salish Kootenai came to town to play North Idaho College it seemed like the whole Coeur d’Alene Nation was packed into Christianson Gym. “We didn’t come here to watch any of these other guys. We came here to watch Timmy play,” the tribal chairman told me afterwards.
Timmy was killed in a drive-by shooting not long after that, but at least he got to chase the dream and represent his family and his nation.
I asked him what the major difference was between going from 1A basketball in Idaho to junior college ball. “It’s way faster,” he said.
I almost laughed out loud Saturday night when I caught up with Big Bend freshman Jacky Hidalgo of Mattawa after The Lady Vikings’ loss to Clackamas Community College and asked Jacky that very same question about the transition to community college basketball.
“It’s a lot faster than I’m used to,” the 5-foot-2 point guard explained. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication in practice every day. I’ve been working on passing it to where they’re supposed to be, and not just passing it where they are.
“Every day is a new challenge, but I think I’m showing them why I was recruited.”
It takes something special to come into Moses Lake from Wahluke High School where the student population is 95 percent Hispanic. There’s a few cultural differences, educational challenges and a young woman looking to make her own way at a college with a full-time enrollment of just under 2,000 students.
I thought back on Timmy a little bit. Both are point guards. Both come from a small high school program. Tim had a little more swag, but that just might be a guy thing. Jacky didn’t seem intimidated during her playing time on the floor against Clackamas. She didn’t score or thread a bounce pass through traffic to a cutter. But she didn’t turn the ball over or foul out running down the floor either. She’s quiet, she’s humble and she’s got game.
“I’ve been working on discipline and making sure everything is perfect,” she said. “The girls are really tall, way taller than I’m used to, so you have to be quick,” she said. “What I learned playing in Mattawa was to go hard every game. I like playing against kids from bigger schools, from different states. You have to play a little different and work on your skills.”
If you get a chance to seen the Lady Vikings this season, give a little root for the five-foot-nuthin’ fireball bringing the ball up the floor. Maybe we’ll see a little more Wahluke Warrior attire in the stands this year.
The big thing both Tim and Jacky told me, no fear baby. Roll out the rock, let’s see what you got.
Rodney Harwood is sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and writes a weekly column for the Sun Tribune. He can be reached at rharwood@columbiabasinherald