Sports

Former OHHS stars return to work with current Wildcats

Heidi McNeill works helps with conditioning by passing a weighted basketball. - Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times
Heidi McNeill works helps with conditioning by passing a weighted basketball.
— image credit: Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times

Members of the Oak Harbor High School varsity girls and freshman boys basketball teams are receiving a unique gift this holiday season: the expertise of two of Oak Harbor’s most celebrated athletes.

Heidi McNeill, a 2005 OHHS graduate, and Marshall Lobbestael, who graduated in 2007, have returned to their alma mater to help as volunteer coaches in the basketball programs.

McNeill is arguably the best female basketball player generated by Oak Harbor. While starting four years on the Wildcat varsity, she recorded the three highest single-season scoring totals in school history, topped by 441 points in 2003. She averaged 20.7 points per game in 2005. She also has the first, third and fourth highest single-game scoring marks (40, 35, 31).

McNeill is the OHHS career scoring leader (1,643 points) and second in career rebounds (811).

She is the only Oak Harbor female grad to play Division 1 basketball, lettering four years for the University of Washington.  After finishing her Husky career in 2009, she played four seasons of professional basketball in Austria, Australia and Germany.

Currently working in town as a physical therapist, she  is considering returning to Australia soon to play a fifth season of pro ball.

Lobbestael was a four-year letter winner in baseball and a three-year letterman in basketball and football at Oak Harbor High School.

He holds the school football records for single-season passing yards (2,783), career passing yards (5,307), single-season total offense (2,783), career total offense (5,307), touchdown passes in a game (six), touchdown passes in a season (34) and touchdown passes in a career (58).

He became the first Wildcat to start a Division 1 game at quarterback, leading the Washington State University offense for a handful of games as a four-year letterman.

Lobbestael graduated from WSU with a degree in psychology but has returned to school to earn a teaching certification in math.

McNeill said, “Basketball is such a big part of my life, it is nice to give back to my alma mater.”

She said she ran into Oak Harbor assistant coach Fred Burleson earlier this year and said she was available to help if needed. Head coach Trisha Wieber invited her aboard.

McNeill said she has “a lot of views on how the game is played at a higher level” and “knows what the girls are going through,” therefore she can help the current Wildcats as players and people, “whether discussing basketball, school or life.”

McNeill is tutoring the posts, hoping to “help make them smarter players” and to improve their fundamentals.

She said the players seemed a little intimidated at first, but once she broke the ice  (“I like to be a little bit silly.”)  they became more receptive to her advice.

Oak Harbor varsity coach Trisha Wieber said, “Heidi has been a great asset to the Oak Harbor girls basketball program so far this year.  Based on her experience, she is not only able to offer valuable observations, but ways to fix our weaknesses.”

She added, “Our girls grew up watching Heidi play and have heard that she played in college and professionally. She has their respect not only as a coach, but as a player.”

McNeill is not sure if coaching will be part of her future, but she is certain basketball will be in some form.

Lobbestael, on the other hand, is sure he wants to coach. When his former high-school football coach, Dave Ward, who now coaches at Sedro-Woolley, invited him to be part of his Cub staff, Lobbestael grabbed the opportunity. He and high-school teammate Mundo Corrales were in charge of the summer conditioning program at Sedro-Woolley and that’s where Lobbestael  “caught the coaching bug.” The more he coached, the more he liked it.

That cemented the idea to get a teaching degree and to become a high-school coach.

Oak Harbor freshman coach Bryan Schulle, who coached varsity basketball during Lobbestael’s first three years in the OHHS program, invited Lobbestael to come out and help with the ninth graders.

Lobbestael likes coaching basketball (“It’s more personal than football) and working with Schulle.

“Bryan is a lot of fun,” Lobbestael said. “It’s a great atmosphere.”

Schulle said, “Marsh is able to give our freshmen the perspective of both a former OHHS athlete and an athlete that has competed at the highest collegiate level. He is energetic, detail oriented and completely positive with our kids, strongly conveying the message that with hard work great things are possible. We are very fortunate that Marshall has volunteered his time to our program.”

Varsity coach Mike Washington, who coached Lobbestael’s senior high-school season, said, “He brings an excellent attitude and knowledge about the game. One thing he has done is bring a different energy level to the program. He can help teach the kids about hard work and dedication. We are very fortunate he has decided to return to help us.”

Lobbestael said teaching a strong work ethic, something he learned through college athletics, is one of the things he can offer the Oak Harbor program.

He said, “The level of competition, especially in the off season, is growing. My knowledge of it (conditioning) is something I can bring to the table.”

Though he doesn’t have his teaching certificate, he does have an emergency waiver to help in the substitute-starved Sedro-Woolley district; and he received his first one-day teaching assignment recently, first grade.

“It was crazy; me and 31 kids,” he said. “My father said it must have been like ‘Kindergarten Cop.’”

Soon he will be patrolling the bench of a high-school team.

(Marshall Lobbestael helps an Oak Harbor freshman basketball player with positioning on the court.)

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