The reason for Destiny Schang not to play basketball is obvious.
At 5-foot-23/4 – “It’s just easier to say 5-3,” she says, and the program lists her at 5-4 – the Saint Martin’s junior is the shortest player in the Great Northwest Conference.
In a game dominated by height, Schang instead relies on being one of the quickest players on her team.
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She’s also got just the right attitude to counter being a small guard.
“I have this thing in me. You’re not going to push me around,” Schang said with a grin. “I don’t care how big you are. Once I get out there on the floor, that’s it. If anything, I’m pushing you out of the key.”
Sometimes in practice as Schang is dribbling up court, it’s as though the coach’s youngest daughter somehow got out on the floor. Yet Schang has found her place.
At Woodland High School, she was a four-time all-league player and was named league MVP as a senior.
It was the winningest four-year stretch in school history. Woodland advanced to the state tournament all four years, placing three times and finishing as high as fourth. So Schang didn’t just sneak onto a roster, she has real talent.
Tim Healy, Saint Martin’s coach, was convinced this tiny-tot guard could play college basketball.
“I think sometimes when you get kids like Destiny who are smaller, I think they have a little different drive about them,” Healy said. “They know they have to overcome some things.”
What’s the trick?
For Schang, it means being tops in fitness, strength and endurance. She’s committed to lifting weights and working out.
After the team’s shootaround Friday, Schang ran an hour on her own.
“She’s super strong,” Healy said. “That helps make up for her lack of size a little bit.”
She’s impressed her teammates, including Krissy Bassett, the Saints’ 6-foot-1 post and tallest player.
“With any short person, the disadvantage would be rebounding and guarding people bigger than you,” Bassett said. “But she’s really quick. Guarding her is hard when she drives the lane. It’s hard to keep track of her.”
Schang doesn’t back down in practice or in games.
“She’s definitely feisty,” Bassett said. “Especially on defense. You have to have that attitude at her size. She sends a message that I may be short, but I can play.”
Schang’s parents – Scott and Lori – aren’t exactly giants either. Her dad is 5-8, and her mom is 5-6.
“So, they knew I wasn’t going to be tall,” Schang said.
She does have athletic roots, though. Schang’s great-great-uncle, Wally Schang, was a teammate of Babe Ruth’s on the New York Yankees.
So, Schang has some athletic genes to go along with her irrepressible drive. From her first game on her first team in third grade, Schang has had a passion to be the best she can be.
“Honestly, it’s a way for me to glorify God,” Schang said. “Whatever happens, whether I start or whether I come off the bench, I want to be the best I can be to God’s glory.”
That’s a perspective she learned from her parents, who are both ministers. They pastor a church called The Promise. Destiny recently released a CD of gospel rock titled “The Promise” that includes songs she and her brother wrote.
“She’s really a very talented kid,” Healy said. “She has a great attitude and a great work ethic.”
Healy rates Schang as one of his top defenders.
“There are defensive matchups that are difficult,” Healy said. “She’s at risk of someone taking her to the block.”
But in the open court, when a guard is moving on the dribble, Schang is tenacious. And when she’s got the ball, Healy said, Schang has to be a passer first, scorer second. Schang has compensated for her lack of height by perfecting her passing skills. Since grade school, she’s gone to basketball camps and dribble clinics.
She’s spent hours shooting jump shots at a basket in her front yard. With her dad rebounding, she’d pop shots from behind the 3-point arc he drew.
“I’d turn on the lights and I’d shoot into the dark,” Schang said. “I loved it.”
While growing up, Schang never heard from a coach, “You’re too short, why don’t you try another sport?” Even though gymnastics was the sport she wanted to pursue when she was in grade school, basketball became her passion.
“I never had anybody say anything negative about me playing basketball,” Schang said. “Not my parents, family, friends. There were never any naysayers.”
That’s probably more a testament to Schang’s skills than observers’ patience.
Schang turned down other offers out of high school, including Whitworth, to attend Saint Martin’s. But after one year at SMU she briefly transferred to Warner Pacific. She left there – “It was the worst basketball experience of my life,” she said – after one semester and attended Clark Community College a year before transferring back to Saint Martin’s in the fall.
Schang didn’t become eligible until midway through the season and has played limited minutes in 10 games.
“I left here because I was incredibly homesick,” Schang said. “I’m glad I’m back.”