Dustin McConnell wore a tired smile.
The junior point guard had just helped No. 4 Whitworth to yet another men’s basketball victory and he chatted about his role in the win, downplaying his own efforts in favor of his teammates.
But when the subject turns to his freshman sister, KC, who is one of the Whitworth women’s leading scorers coming off the bench, his face lights up and the tired smile disappears, replaced by a proud, ear-to-ear grin.
“I love watching her games,” he says. “She’s playing great. I’m so proud of her!”
The pride goes both ways. Since the Whitworth women regularly play the first game of a Northwest Conference doubleheader, KC McConnell hurries back to the court after her game to watch her brother play.
“I think we’ve always been each other’s biggest fan and I love watching his games – I love it when he does well,” KC said. “It’s funny, but I get so much more nervous watching his games than I do for my own.”
The siblings grew up close, and their success was forged head-to-head in the family backyard.
“KC is just a great sister and she was always willing to play with me at whatever sport it was,” Dustin said. “Whether it was throwing around a baseball or playing basketball, we always had each other.”
“He never took it easy on me,” KC laughs. “There would be times when I would just beg him to let me score a couple baskets, but he never let up. That helped make me a better player. I knew I had to make myself bigger and stronger if I was going to compete with the boys.
“We’re a lot alike that way. Neither one of us likes to lose and we’re very competitive.”
The siblings each had outstanding careers at Clarkston High. A two-time Great Northern League MVP, Dustin helped the Bantams into the State 2A tournament four times and the team earned a fourth-place state trophy his senior season. KC was a key player on last year’s state championship team and a four-time All-GNL selection.
Dustin played in 16 games as a Pirates freshman and he’s now a two-year starter. As the Bucs rolled to 16 straight wins and the No. 4 ranking in the latest Division III men’s basketball poll, he is the team’s leading scorer at 13.5 points per game.
But the two-hour drive between Spokane and Clarkston meant that he couldn’t watch his sister play as much as he wanted before this season.
“I only got to see a couple of games last year, but I heard all about it,” he said. “I would have loved to have seen her at the state tournament, but we were playing our own tournament about that time.”
When it came time for KC to choose a college, Dustin tried to stay out of the way.
“I told her why Whitworth was a good fit for me and why I liked it here,” he said. “I think she just decided it would be a good fit for her, too.”
“I love it here,” she said. “Everyone here has been welcoming – the students, the teachers, my teammates. I don’t think I could have hoped for an easier transition.”
The on-court transition has been good all around. KC averages almost 16 minutes and 9.3 points per game following back-to-back home wins over Willamette and Linfield last weekend.
She’s led the team in scoring three times already this season, including a 20-point effort at California Lutheran. She’s led the team in rebounds four times, including a 10-board outing against Cal Tech.
The Pirate women got their first NWC win on Jan. 8, upsetting 19th-ranked Whitman in the Fieldhouse, 59-56.
Being reunited under the same Fieldhouse roof makes it easier on the whole family.
“It’s been great for our mom and dad – they’ve made it to all of our home games,” Dustin said. “I’m beginning to realize that I don’t have that many games left in my career. The end of my senior season isn’t that far off, so I’m glad that my family has the chance to see us both play.”