De Jager's toughness key for Lyncs' success


Lynden Christian's Karley De Jager yells as the buzzer signals the end of the game as Sehome lost to Lynden Christian 51-34 in a girls' basketball game Thursday evening on Nov. 29, 2012 in Bellingham.


Karley De Jager gestured to a fresh, darkened-blue bruise midway up her right arm between her elbow and shoulder as evidence of her bullish nature.

It was only the size of a quarter, but it said more about the 6-foot senior post for Lynden Christian's girls' basketball team than any stats ever could.

"I love getting bruises," De Jager said. "It sounds weird, but it shows myself I was working hard ... and being physical."

De Jager - a three-year varsity starter for the Lyncs - has established herself as one of the premier low-post threats in the Northwest Conference, averaging 10.1 points per game entering play Sunday, Dec. 29. And while her style may lack the flash and excitement of her teammates, Sally Vlas and Courtney Hollander, the results are often the same.

Against Bellingham on Thursday, Dec. 2, depending on the perspective, De Jager's offensive possessions could have either been viewed as a bad movie stuck on repeat or beautiful display of how to gain leverage in the low post.

On four nearly-identical possessions, her movements mirrored that of the ball on the perimeter, swinging from one side of the basket to the other like a windshield wiper. The outcome was always the same: De Jager putting her defender behind her, receiving the pass from the outside and quickly lofting a shot off glass for a quick score.

"I feel like I am stronger than most of the girls," she said. "(It's) just getting in front and being physical and working hard with my back to the basket."

Her play tells of a savvy veteran - someone who's been through the rigors of a long season. Her path to become a varsity starter wasn't necessarily what some might call "typical," though.

She spent her entire freshman year on the C team, never once getting called up to junior varsity. Come her sophomore year, she was immediately promoted to varsity after coach Curt DeHaan saw the type of athlete she was and the skills she possessed.

"She posted up real strong and then she's got a great jumping ability," DeHaan said. "We were just looking at her athleticism. ... When she gets the ball on a turnaround jump shot, she's hard to stop."

She navigated the first few weeks of her sophomore season as an unknown, quietly doing as the seniors asked, she remembered.

"I was really nervous," De Jager said of her first start on varsity. "I just went up there. The seniors were very encouraging, and I kept wanting to please them and work very, very hard."

The shadow she happily lived in during the early part of that season vanished when she posted a 17-point game against Bellevue Christian - 10 of which came in the first quarter of play - in a 54-41 win on Dec. 28, 2011.

No longer was she a girl merely filling a spot on the bench.

"I think that was the game that I definitely established myself, and I think the coaches were like, 'Wow, she's going to bring it,'" she said. "I just worked my tail off to get there, and now I am a senior and I feel like it's paying off."

She said the feeling was "crazy" after the scoring outburst. After all, she never even tasted the junior varsity level, and there she was as a sophomore playing an integral role on a team that ended up finishing second in state.

The person she replaced in the starting lineup, Jasmine Hommes, was the leader she has since tried to embody.

At practice, De Jager said she and the other seniors focus on creating an atmosphere of physicality and toughness. DeHaan caters to that mentality, pulling out blocking pads from the football team so De Jager and the other posts become familiar with the constant contact they will inevitably face.

"We try to set the intensity level high. ... We're working with the younger ones to be physical and to be mentally tough," De Jager said. "It's kind of contagious. They (the underclassmen) see us talking and working our butts off. It's like 'Yeah, we want that fire, too. We can do it.'"

Reach Alex Bigelow at or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.

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