She was tall, and they weren't.
That’s all that Amanda Levens needed to know when she phoned the 6-foot-3 Whitney Champlin, recruiting her to play basketball at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
“I was just starting up here, and we didn’t have any size,” said Levens, SIUE’s coach since 2008.
And that’s how Champlin, an Olympia High School graduate, ended up transferring three years ago from Oregon State to a school halfway across the country.
“I asked her if she was interested in coming here, and she was,” Levens said. “We brought her out for a visit. It was the perfect match.”
It wasn’t Levens’ first contact with Champlin. When Levens was an assistant coach at the University of Nevada-Reno, she recruited Champlin during her senior year at Olympia. Levens then heard through a friend, who was an assistant coach at Oregon State, about Champlin wanting to transfer.
“If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me, ‘Why are you here?’ I’d be a millionaire,” Champlin said.
It hasn’t worked out the way either Champlin or Levens had hoped. Plagued by injuries, Champlin hasn’t been the impact player she could have been.
Stress fractures in her legs and a recent injury to her hand have limited her minutes. She has played in 10 of 18 games and is averaging just four minutes a game. She hasn’t attempted a field goal.
“With her, it’s been one thing after another, unfortunately,” Levens said. “But she’s been a trooper. She doesn’t miss practices. She comes and works hard.”
Champlin’s role isn’t to be a starter or leading scorer. She’s the one who pushes the starters in practice, getting them ready for the next game.
“Her role is: She’s a motherly type. She’s a great caregiver,” Levens said. “All the players look up to her. She’s just as important as the player who’s doing all the scoring or all the rebounding.”
Although Champlin’s basketball experience hasn’t been what she planned, she has excelled in the classroom and graduated in four years with a degree in kinesiology. She’s now working on a masters in exercise physiology.
“I’ve always wanted to be an athletic trainer,” Champlin said. “I like helping people.”
SIUE opened the season with a four-game losing streak, won two straight, then lost eight in a row, dropping to 2-12. SIUE then strung together four straight wins to improve to 6-12.
“Whitney wants to help the team any way she can,” Levens said. “She knows she needs to be ready when we call on her.”
RANKED NO. 1
Nobody rebounds better than Blake Poole.
At least, not in NCAA Division II. The Saint Martin’s senior is No. 1 in the national rebounding statistics.
Poole is averaging 11.7 rebounds a game. He broke the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s single-season record last year by averaging 12.2 rebounds, third-best in the country. Poole has 991 career rebounds and needs nine more to become the second player in GNAC history to top 1,000 rebounds.
WINS AND LOSSES
Western Washington coach Carmen Dolfo became her school’s winningest women’s basketball coach with last week’s 74-50 win at Alaska Fairbanks.
Dolfo is 413-158 in 20 seasons at Western. She passed Lynda Goodrich, who won 411 games and is now Western’s athletic director.
Western touts itself as the only school at any level to have two women’s basketball coaches who have won 400 games.
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443 firstname.lastname@example.org