One could say Sam Van Loo was born to play in the post for the Lynden Christian girls’ basketball team.
Her aunt, Lyncs assistant coach Keven Van Berkum, and cousin, Meagan Van Berkum, both spent time in the paint for LC. Her mother, Tressa, well, she was “a little too small” to spend much time inside, Van Loo said, but she also wore the navy and white on the court, and height is definitely not a problem for the 6-foot-1 sophomore.
“I’ve always been center back in all my school pictures growing up,” Van Loo joked.
But it took much more than just size and genetics for Van Loo to develop into such a valuable player for the top-ranked team in the latest Class 1A rankings.
She works really hard at everything she does. It’s something she takes a lot of pride in. She’s completely unselfish, and you know she’s going to do the right things on and off the court.
Lynden Christian coach Brady Bomber on sophomore Sam Van Loo
As a freshman last year, Van Loo got to learn on the job playing behind senior starter Sara Dougan.
“It was a great experience playing with Sara,” Van Loo said. “Every day in practice, I got pushed. It really helped that I was pushed so hard.”
And when Van Loo did see playing time, she showed promise, averaging 4.0 points in 27 games and scoring a season-high 14 in a Feb. 11 game against Mount Baker.
But she knew there was a big difference between being a reserve and full-time starting post.
If you want to be good at something, you need to put in the time. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
Lyncs sophomore post Sam Van Loo
“For her, I think it really started in the spring and summer,” LC coach Brady Bomber said. “She told us she wanted to improve and do some of the same things Sara did. ... It took a lot of long hours in the gym working on her footwork and her shot and just as much time in the weight room. But because she spent that time, I think the difference is night and day.”
Van Loo, who added a jump hook and a few other shots to her repertoire, entered Thursday’s game at Meridian second on the team with 12.2 points per game after scoring a game- and career-high 21 in a 71-58 win over Class 2A No. 1 Burlington-Edison.
9 Games in Lynden Christian’s first 13 this year when Sam Van Loo has scored in double figures
But as valuable as she’s been on offense, Bomber said he’s most impressed with the work Van Loo has made on the defensive end of the court.
“After all that time in the weight room and all the other work she’s putting in, you can see she’s moving side to side really well and has a lot better balance,” Bomber said. “She’s staying out of foul trouble, because she’s stronger and moves better, and she’s been improved rebounding.”
6 Rebounds Sam Van Loo has averaged entering play Thursday, Jan. 14
Van Loo’s voice has also had to get stronger.
Though Bomber said she’s generally quiet by nature, Van Loo has had to take more of a leadership role, especially when the Lyncs run their press, putting the taller post on the back line and to quarterback shifts as opponents work the ball up the court.
The 4.0 student has more than been up to the challenge of learning and communicating what needs to be done on the court.
“Our coach put a lot of time in with me this year to help me get better,” Van Loo said. “And a lot of credit has to go to my teammates. They’re very unselfish and throw me good passes. I’ve just been trying to learn from those around me and get better.”