River Ridge High School girls basketball coach Jackie Robinson recalls the last time he saw a prep player with the NCAA Division I-like athleticism of W.F. West’s Nike McClure: It was more than a decade ago in his home state of Alabama.
That athleticism was on full display during W.F. West’s 45-42 win over Robinson’s Hawks in late January, when McClure, a lengthy 6-foot-3 senior post player, skyrocketed for an offensive rebound.
The result left players — and Robinson — in awe.
“Her hand was above the rim,” Robinson recalled. “She could’ve tip-dunked it.”
That above-the-rim leaping ability, her talent and post-up moves are what make McClure, The Olympian’s All-Area girls Player of the Year, a unique basketball talent. She can touch the rim, and while she has yet to dunk in a game, that’s on her short to-do list before her high school career comes to a close. She’s still fine-tuning her dunking technique — like figuring out whether to jump off one foot or two.
“I would love to show everyone I can do it,” McClure said.
McClure’s vertical leap is just one aspect on her “most improved” list of basketball qualities. Others, as Bearcats coach Henri Weeks points out, include her overall basketball IQ, patience on the low block and fundamentals.
That, in part, is why Weeks believes McClure, a Washington State signee, will be an even better college player.
“It’s hard to imagine her getting stronger, physically,” Weeks said. “She’s already so incredibly strong. ... She’s going to be one of the better athletes on the basketball court in the Pac-12 (Conference).”
As for her first name: It’s pronounced like the shoe giant, and she admits being teased in elementary school because of it, but she isn’t named after Phil Knight’s company. Her father, Gregory, wanted to name his first-born after the Greek goddess of victory after studying Greek mythology in college.
McClure, the 2A Evergreen Conference’s MVP who is averaging 12.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and three blocked shots a game, transferred to W.F. West after spending her freshman and sophomore years at Tenino. Had she stayed at Tenino, she said, she wouldn’t have been on track to graduate.
“I wasn’t keeping my head in high school,” McClure said. “I had more fun talking with my friends in class.”
Her time at W.F. West has been for the better; she achieved mostly A’s last semester. On the court — Washington Interscholastic Activities Association transfer rules forced her to play junior varsity last season — she has blended well with the Bearcats’ system, which features four players 6-0 or taller.
“The entire basketball program embraced me,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
A big playoff hurdle was cleared Friday when second-ranked W.F. West beat No. 1 Mark Morris, 53-47, in the 2A District IV title game. It was the fifth time in two years W.F. West and Mark Morris squared off, including a nonleague game in December and in last year’s Class 2A state title game, when the Monarchs claimed their first championship.
A win Saturday over Bellingham in a regional matchup at Tumwater High School sends the Bearcats (21-2) to state at the Yakima SunDome for the fourth consecutive year.
McClure knows the best is yet to come.
“I see nothing but a golden road in front of us,” she said.
THE OLYMPIAN’S ALL-AREA GIRLS BASKETBALL TEAM
POS. NAME HT. YEAR HIGH SCHOOL
P Nike McClure 6-3 Sr. W.F. West
Washington State signee and Olympian All-Area Player of the Year already has Pac-12 Conference-like athleticism. The 2A Evergreen Conference MVP is a constant threat, averaging a double-double (12.3 points, 10.5 rebounds a game) entering Saturday’s Class 2A regional game against Bellingham.
P Julie Spencer 6-2 Jr. W.F. West
Already receiving Division I offers, Spencer possesses a strong inside-outside game. She shoots well (averaging 10 points per game) but also is a passing threat, averaging almost three assists. Grabs 9.5 rebounds a game.
W/P Sarah McGee 5-11 Sr. Black Hills
Post? Wing? Guard? Southern Utah signee’s size and athleticism make her a perfect fit regardless of her position. For the second straight season, averaged a double-double (11 points, 13 rebounds a game).
W Callan Russell 5-11 Jr. Timberline
Can score points in multiple ways and isn’t afraid to take over a game when her team needs it. Runner-up in 3A Narrows League MVP voting; averaged 13.3 points and 8.6 rebounds a game.
G Jazzlynn Brewster 5-6 Sr. River Ridge
A defense-first player who sparks the offense with her play-making abilities, Brewster always had the tough assignment of guarding the opposing team’s top player. Averaged four steals a game, as well as a league-best average of 18.2 points.
Coach of the year: Henri Weeks, W.F. West
Led the second-ranked Bearcats to the 2A District IV title and their second straight undefeated 2A Evergreen Conference season.
Laura Snodgrass, jr., Olympia; McKaiela Tyler, sr., Yelm; Sara Bowen, so., Timberline; Keeli Demers, jr., Rochester; Makenna Schultz, so., River Ridge