The realm of rebounding is generally ruled by the giants on a basketball court.
Three undersized local players, however, have invaded the territory of their taller opponents and excelled at snaring errant shots.
Although Coupeville’s Hunter Downes and Oak Harbor’s Samantha Hines and Weston Whitefoot all battle against much taller foes each game, they have found success in rebounding through a pinch of positioning, a dash of technique and a whole-lotta “want-to.”
While on the prowl for rebounds, the needle on their body tachometer is always in the red.
The three seniors acknowledge they aren’t shooters or ball handers, so the best way they can help their teams win is to control the boards even though rebounding is one of the less glamorous skills in basketball.
Three-point shots are more majestic; slashes to the hoop are more athletic and acrobatic; crossover dribbles that leave defenders behind and blocked shots that ricochet off the back walls draw oohs and aahs.
Rebounds? Well, they are the results of a mistake, a missed shot. Rebounders are the offensive linemen of basketball; they do the dirty work in obscurity.
The Coupeville High School boys basketball program lists Downes as 5-foot-11; he says he might be 5-10.
In recalling his first basketball practice as a freshman, Downes said he was 5-5 at the time and went up against a 6-3 teammate in a rebounding drill. He won the battle.
“I didn’t know what I was going to be good at in basketball,” Downes said. The drill taught him he could help his team by rebounding.
“It’s a tough guy thing — I always want to get the rebound, I always wanted the ball more than anyone else.”
“It’s always been up to me to get rebounds,” he added, noting his teams have always lacked size.
Downes added that if you show effort, coaches will notice and playing time will follow.
“You have to have a high motor to be a good rebounder,” Downes said. “It is an effort thing. When the ball goes up, I believe I am the one who is going to get it.”
“Hunter is a competitor,” Coupeville High School boys basketball coach Brad Sherman said. “Week in and week out, he’s asked to match up with bigger lineups, and he does it with no hesitation, no excuses and generally with a smile on his face. He shows a whole lot of heart and determination every time he steps on the basketball court and just never stops battling.
“(He’s a) great kid to coach, and it’s always fun to watch him compete for possession of the ball.”
“Wanting it first,” is the key to rebounding success, Hines said.
“There is no self doubt. It’s not how tall you are (she is 5-7), it is the size inside,” she said while tapping a finger on her heart.
Being a good rebounder comes from “constant repetition” and good positioning, she said.
When a shot goes up, “I get into a body first before I look at the ball.”
She noted that “all the work on her vertical (jumping ability)” in volleyball has helped as well.
Oak Harbor High School girls basketball coach Jon Atkins said Hines’ “selflessness,” “strength” and “want-to” are critical to her rebounding success.
“She knows her role and excels at it, and there is no one who can out-muscle her,” Atkins said. “One hundred percent, every ball that goes up she thinks is hers.”
“This is only her third year of basketball,” Atkins added. “Her ability to get the ball after only three years of playing is amazing.”
Rebounding is “about hard work, effort and attitude,” Whitefoot, who is 6-1, said.
“Working hard is something my mom taught us,” Whitefoot said. His older siblings Elias and AnnaBelle were also hard working basketball players; his mother, Sarah Hangan, is an athlete and coach.
“It’s just effort, boxing out your man,” Whitefoot said. “When you box out, you help your team. You might not get the rebound, but if you box out, your teammate might.”
“The game of basketball has most definitely changed and so have its players,” Oak Harbor High School boys basketball coach John Weston said. “Everyone wants to score and everyone thinks he is a three-point shooter; most think they are ball handlers.
“It is very rare to find a young athlete who truly wants to throw his body around, block out and enjoys the art of rebounding. Weston Whitefoot is one of those rare athletes. He really takes pride in his ability to rebound. And although Weston isn’t the tallest, strongest or the best leaper, he is typically the guy on the court with the biggest heart.
“His grit and will to compete are what makes him such an effective rebounder and what sets him apart from other basketball players in today’s game.”
The same could be said for Downes and Hines.