They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Lynden coach Rob Adams used this phrase frequently when discussing senior Kaitlyn Mark, who has helped the Lions to the Hardwood Classic, in which they’ll face W.F. West on Thursday, March 5, at the Yakima SunDome in a Class 2A quarterfinal matchup.
As a sophomore, Mark was thrown into the fire that is the Lynden Lions’ varsity team.
Adams and his coaching staff demand things done the correct way every time and if it’s not done right, the players are going to hear about it.
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“I’m fairly demanding,” Adams said in a phone interview. “We’re not too lovey-dovey in our program.”
The young Mark had to learn how to deal with the intensity of Adams and the Lions.
It took until the end of the season when she learned how much the coaches cared, not just about the players but about the program.
“After that season, she was able to sit back and say ‘Wow, they care about me,’” Adams said. “All of a sudden she was able to grow.”
And as one of the most coachable kids Adams has had, Mark improved quickly.
By her junior season, Mark was a big contributor on a Lynden team that finished third in the Class 2A State Tournament.
Mark’s prowess as a shooter continued to be her biggest weapon, as she gained more and more confidence, “just by practicing my shot a lot,” Mark said in a phone interview.
But as one of Lynden’s two main scorers this season, Mark needed to add more weapons to her attack.
“Her ability to stretch the floor and continue to try to improve and add things to her toolbox speaks volumes about her as a kid,” Adams said. “There’s lots of kids willing to settle and sit back and jack up 3s. We challenged her to build on her game and be a complete offensive player.”
Whether it was a stepback, a ball fake or dribble drive, Mark listened to her coaches on how to attack defenses.
The coaches would give her certain things to work on at each practice and while most kids, Adams said, would wonder why they need to improve at something they’ve already found success at, Mark allowed herself to be coached.
“Most kids nowadays don’t want to be coached. They don’t want to listen. They’re products of the AAU system, thinking they’re the next Lebron James,” Adams said. “Kaitlyn is so humble and willing to learn.”
It’s resulted in Mark’s most successful season yet, as she’s averaged 14.1 points per game.
Her biggest moment came in Lynden’s Class 2A Northwest District Championship win over Burlington-Edison. She scored 28 points as the Lions repeated as district champions.
“It was a very crazy, awesome game,” Mark said. “The first time we played them, I only scored six points. I really wanted to win districts back to back and prove to myself I could do it.”
That drive is what Adams and the Lions expect more of as Lynden enters its quarterfinal matchup against W.F. West, the same team that topped the Lions in last year’s semifinals.
Only a potential three games remain for Mark’s career, not only as a high school basketball player but as an athlete. Mark played a major role on the Lions’ volleyball team as well, but doesn’t play spring sports and isn’t planning on playing competitively in college.
She instead will try to be a volleyball manager at the University of Arizona.
“It is starting to sink in,” Mark said of her playing days coming to an end. “It’s definitely very sad.”
Mark will try to end her time with the Lions where she started, on a state championship team. The only difference is she’ll be playing this time, not just a ball girl as she was during the 2008-09 season.
But Mark has etched her name into the long list of good basketball players to come through Lynden, and Adams said she has really highlighted what the program is all about.
“There are certain kids that come through a program that remind you what the program is about,” Adams said. “To Kaitlyn’s credit, she’s one of those program kids, someone you can’t wait to get in the program and mold.”
Along with Mark, senior guard Mandy Warner will be ending her time with the Lions in Yakima. Warner and Mark have played together since fifth grade and are excited to end their time together in Yakima, although sad to see it come to a conclusion.
“They’ve been great ambassadors to what the experience is as student-athlete,” Adams said. “It starts with leadership and Kaitlyn and Mandy have provided a plethora of leadership on and off the court.”
That experience and leadership will be carried with both seniors to the Hardwood Classic and with one trip to the SunDome already under their belts, there’s no telling how far Warner and Mark can take this team.