Senior Tyler Penney is an indispensable part of the Oak Harbor High School boys basketball program, but you won’t find his name listed in any game report or called when starting lineups are announced.
He has never scored a point, snared a rebound or taken a charge.
However, when each 12th-grade team member was honored during Senior Night Wednesday, none received a louder reception than Penney.
That ovation by the Wildcat players, coaches and fans acknowledged their appreciation of Penney’s hard work as the team’s manager the past four seasons.
As a freshman, Penney was a student in head coach John Weston’s class. Weston, knowing Penney’s passion for basketball, asked him if he would like to help out as a manager.
“I have always loved basketball,” Penney said. “When coach asked me to be manager, I thought about it for a few days then decided to do it. I have never regretted it; I absolutely love this job.”
Penney said he never felt any less important than the players. When he was a freshman, senior Zach Jones invited him to go bowling with a few of the players. Those types of acts always made him feel part of the team.
“Sure, I don’t get to play,” Penney said, “but the team bonding is so cool. I love these players, the former players, too; they are really great.
“I love doing this.”
“Doing this” is a little bit of everything.
Penney runs the clock during practice to keep the coaches on time, folds uniforms and helps out at games — keeping the scorebook, manning the play clock or tallying statistics — when asked.
“Whenever, wherever they need me, I am there,” Penney said.
Weston said Penney embodies what the program is all about — commitment and character.
“Tyler means a lot to the program,” Weston said. “He shows up each day ready to work and serve the young men in the program, and he always does it with a smile on his face and a grateful attitude.
“Tyler truly represents the program and will be greatly missed.”
Weston noted that not only has Penney matured and “learned a lot along the way,” but has “taught all of us a lot and impacted our lives.”
Penney, who is the son of Anthony and Sunshine Penney, said the relationships are the best part of the job. He said he likes all the players, but when prodded, said 2017 graduate Adam Nelson is his favorite.
“I call him A-Dog; he calls me T-Dog,” Penney said.
Penney said JJ Mitchell, who graduated last spring, and senior Gabe Salinger, are others he has grown close to.
Salinger said Penney is completely dedicated to the team and his positive attitude is infectious.
“Whenever things are down, that doesn’t stop him,” Salinger said. “He is always happy. His favorite word is ‘hi,’ and he always greets you with a smile.”
Senior Joe Arinaza said Penney is “wonderful and loves life.”
“He is helpful when you need it most,” Arinaza added. “He doesn’t get down on people; he is always positive — even if we are losing, he has a smile on his face.”
Penney plans to attend Skagit Valley College next fall and then advance to Washington State University. He hopes to stay connected with basketball by becoming a sports broadcaster. To get a taste of performing behind the microphone, he worked with public address announcer Jay Long during Wednesday’s game with Marysville Getchell.
No, Penney doesn’t have a scrapbook full of his exploits on the basketball court.
“That’s OK,” he said. “I would rather the players’ names be in the newspaper before mine.
“I don’t feel left out, because I have the most important job — that is to serve.”