Lake City High senior basketball player Jacie Estes is having fun again, and it shows.
Her junior year was broken up a month into the basketball season when her father took a job in Logan, Utah.
She had worked her way into being the first guard off the bench for the Timberwolves before she moved. When she turned out at the new school, Skyview, she was placed on the junior varsity. She also suited up for varsity.
LC went on to capture the 5A state championship two months later. The day after the state final, LC’s Amanda Krier sent a text message to her friend in Utah.
Estes knew LC had qualified for state. But the news of the state championship flabbergasted her. She didn’t know how to react to the text initially because Krier is known to joke around frequently with friends.
“I told her, ‘If you’re lying, it’s not even funny’,” Estes said.
While Estes was thrilled for her friends at LC, the news of the title “devastated” her in a way, she said.
“It was hard to move,” Estes said, apologizing as she became teary-eyed talking about it. “It was worse when I found out they won state. I had finally reached a point where my hard work had paid off. And then we had to move.
“He (her father) knew we’d have a hard time with it, but he knew that’s where we were supposed to be.”
Estes played a lot at first on JV at Skyview, but her time began to dwindle. The varsity qualified for state, finishing third. She accompanied the team to state, but she didn’t play. She said she didn’t feel a part of the team.
She wondered if all her hard work was in vain.
Estes didn’t pick up a basketball much after the season. She wasn’t included in plans for the school’s summer team.
While her athletic experience never blossomed in Utah, her friendships at the school did. She credited that to her Mormon faith. When it became apparent in late August that her father was considering a move back to Coeur d’Alene because his job wasn’t working out, Estes wasn’t sure she wanted to return.
She didn’t want to leave another set of friends for the second time in eight months.
LC coach Darren Taylor learned through assistant coach Kris Knowles that Estes might be moving back. The T-Wolves had lost depth and outside shooting to graduation, and the idea of Estes returning pleased Taylor.
Estes went to state with LC as a sophomore. With the majority of the lettermen off that team, including all the starters, returning last year, Estes anticipated a special season. And Taylor figured Estes would have a key role as one of the first substitutes off the bench.
“She was playing really well when she moved,” Taylor said. “She was starting to become a scorer. She’d hit open three-pointers and score a bucket or two off the bench.”
Although Estes wasn’t at the Idaho Center in Nampa when the T-Wolves captured the state title, Taylor said she deserved to be there.
“She was a part of the state championship,” he said. “She worked as hard as anybody when she was here.”
The 5-foot-8 Estes has been a starter at wing and shooting guard most of this season except for a five-game stretch in December when she missed three games because of a pre-arranged trip to Washington, D.C., through her former school.
Lately she has had to share point guard duties with freshman Sydney Butler when senior Emma Hawn injured a knee. It’s been a challenge for Estes because she’s the first to admit that ball-handling isn’t her top strength.
She’s averaging 7.8 points per game and about two assists, rebounds and steals. She scored a career-high 19 earlier this month against Lewiston, and nine times she’s scored eight or more points. “We didn’t have any good outside shooters, and when we found out she was coming back, I knew immediately she would be our best,” Taylor said. “She’s really made herself into a ballplayer.”
Because she didn’t play in the summer – “I wasn’t planning on playing if I was still in Logan,” she said – she started spending time after school in the fall shooting by herself in the gym. She not only attended open gyms for the prospective girls players, but she also attended open gyms for the boys.
“I had to make up for lost time,” she said.
When it came to basketball in Utah, she felt like the proverbial square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Back at LC, it’s like she found a favorite pair of shoes she had lost. And when she put them back on, they fit comfortably.
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