Saint Martin’s University has one senior on its 16-player women’s basketball roster, which includes six freshmen and four sophomores.
At SMU, with this young team, you take your leadership where you find it.
Coach Tim Healy believes he’s found it in two juniors who, before joining the Saints under fortuitous circumstances, played their basketball across oceans — in one case the Pacific, the other the Atlantic.
Hannah Reynolds was recruited by Healy when she was one of the best high school players in Oregon. The 5-foot-6 point guard chose Hawaii Pacific University for her collegiate basketball, but never clicked in the Sharks program in a redshirt freshman season. She “called me out of the blue,” Healy said, to inquire about joining the Saints.
Now, in her third year in the program, she’s a Saint Martin’s co-captain.
“This year it’s Hannah’s team,” Healy said. “I’m excited to see her get a chance to really blossom.”
Reynolds said she found the family atmosphere she was looking for when she transferred to SMU.
“I hope I lead by example,” Reynolds said. “If (the younger players) see me playing with high intensity, they can replicate it and feed off it on the court.
Elin Johansson, a 6-1 junior from Gothenburg, Sweden, joined the Saints through a chain of events set in motion when a post player Healy had expected to sign on did not come onboard. Johansson is a member of the Swedish national team; her sister, who had played at Alaska Anchorage, was in touch with an assistant coach at SMU. “How about my sister?” she said.
Healy made the contact, began daily conversations with Johansson, and two weeks later she was in school at SMU.
“She took a leap of faith — she knew nothing about us,” Healy said of Johansson, the Saints’ top returning scorer after averaging 7.8 points last season. “She’s a super neat kid — very fun, very driven.”
That lone senior, 6-foot-1 Shelbie Drey, also is expected to display her leadership, Healy said, as the Saints’ other co-captain. She is the team’s top returning rebounder after pulling down 5.2 boards per game last season.
The Saints lost top scorers Krista Stabler and Megan Wiedeman to graduation after last season, so the 2016-17 Saints will look to Johansson and Reynolds (6 points a game) to step up in scoring as they head into play in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference that is as good, top to bottom, as Healy has seen in 24 years as head coach, he said.
She knows she will be asked to score, Reynolds said, but there are other scorers on the team, too, and it’s her primary job to get them the ball.
“It just depends on who gets hot,” she said. “You can tell when people are shooting well. I try to get them open looks.”
Of the younger players, Healy said, he expects contributions this season from two South Sounders — freshmen Sara Bowen from Timberline and Makenna Schultz from River Ridge.
Leadership, by Healy’s definition, starts with the team’s few elders being on-court teachers in Saints basketball, he said.
Off-court, the team leaders see to instilling the “behaviors we believe in,” Healy said, attention to school work and communication with the coaches for instance.
“This group has handled the off-court piece better than any group I’ve had,” Healy said.
It’s not by accident, Reynolds said.
“We love to hang out off the court,” the point guard said. “We bring out the best in each other — we all mesh together really well.
“Give Coach Healy a lot of credit. It goes to his ability to identify personalities. The basketball team has been like my second family, my second home.”