Elisa Kooiman has played a handful of sports at Lynden High School, but basketball is her passion.
“My mind is always on it,” she said. “My teammates probably think I’m crazy. It never leaves my mind. I go home, I don’t watch some TV show – I watch a basketball movie, I watch film, I watch the NBA channel.”
The Lions senior point guard has played the game since she was 4 and focused most of her athletic energy on it.
As a Running Start student at Whatcom Community College, Kooiman often can be found taking shots in the gym and lifting weights. This is in addition to the two-hour high school practices each day and the 45 minutes of film she typically watches at home.
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Kooiman plays softball each spring and soccer each fall. But this year, she opted out of soccer and played competitive volleyball for the first time since eighth grade.
Come winter, however, it’s all about hoops.
“It’s been my favorite sport my whole life,” she said.
This season has started well for Kooiman and the Lions, who open Northwest Conference play Monday when they host Burlington-Edison.
Last season, the Lions went 23-4 and advanced to the Class 2A state championship game before falling 49-43 to Shorecrest, which they had beaten in the district semifinals.
“It was really, really tough,” Kooiman said of the loss. “I think I grieved for a good two weeks. Or longer. Maybe months. I think I’m still grieving a little bit.”
The disappointment of the loss, however, is motivation for Kooiman, who is inspired by one of her favorite quotes: “The greatest winners are motored by their toughest losses.”
“When I’m lifting weights, or whatever I’m doing – if I’m getting sick of shooting or I want to go home and rest – I think of that every time,” she said. “It just pushes me and makes me want to be better so that next time I have an opportunity like that, we won’t let it slip.”
This year, Kooiman said the team, with five seniors and nine returning players, is jelling.
“We all have common focuses and common goals, and we get along really, really well together,” she said. “On and off the court, it’s great chemistry. I think we have the pieces that we need; we just have to make sure we’re executing and playing a smart game.”
Lynden coach Rob Adams, in his 10th season, said offseason summer training went well, especially for Kooiman, whom he described as “offensively gifted” and a leader on and off the court.
In a Dec. 5 game against Mount Baker, the 6-foot Kooiman scored 13 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, including nine defensive boards against one of the taller teams in the Northwest Conference.
“Because of her size and her strength, she’s a tough matchup for people,” Adams said.
After high school, Kooiman will play at Northwest Nazarene in Nampa, Idaho. She said she has dreamed of playing in college all her life.
Although Kooiman considered a number of Western Washington colleges, she said Northwest Nazarene was the best fit for her academically, athletically and spiritually.
The hardest thing about leaving, she said, will be the distance from her her parents, four older brothers and one older sister.
Kooiman said she grew up playing street basketball with her brothers and learned many of her moves by watching their high school games. She’d then go home and practice them in the driveway.
“I give them a lot of credit for my success as a basketball player,” she said. “They made me tough.”
After college, Kooiman wants to become a teacher and, of course, coach basketball.
For now, though, Kooiman is focused on helping her team get back to Yakima to claim a state championship. She’s thankful for the accolades, friendships and opportunities her favorite game has provided.
“Basketball has given me so much,” she said. “ … It’s taught me so incredibly much about discipline and work ethic, and teamwork and leadership. I just love playing.”