Central Valley girls basketball coach Freddie Rehkow has had the pleasure of coaching a bundle of talented players.
A few of the all-time best are on this year’s team that could finish with a 56-game winning streak, established over the span of two seasons, and two state championships.
Senior Courtney Carolan won’t be remembered as one of Rehkow’s most gifted players. But she has established herself as No. 1 in a category that must come natural and can rarely be manufactured.
“I’ve never had a player tougher than her,” Rehkow said. “She would go eight or nine rounds with the boys anytime. If you asked anybody on the team – ‘If you had to take one person to a fight with you?’ – they’d all pick Courtney, hands down.”
And Carolan is tops in a couple of other categories that demonstrate the toughness. She leads the team in charges taken and floor burns.
If the Greater Spokane League gave out a comeback player of the year award, Carolan, a left-handed 5-foot-7 guard, would be a unanimous pick.
She was at a 3-on-3 tournament in Coeur d’Alene the summer of 2015 when she suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Carolan met with a doctor who told her the ACL was three-quarters torn. She could have surgery or try to play.
“He told me that if I was his daughter, he’d suggest that I try to play,” Carolan said. “I knew I was going to have to have surgery at some point.”
So Carolan, a starter as a freshman and sophomore, chose to postpone surgery as long as possible. She knew her junior season could be special.
She was fitted for a brace, hoping it would provide additional support. But she didn’t even make it to the season opener.
The day before the preseason jamboree, during CV’s intrasquad scrimmage, Carolan was sprinting when she tried to stop quickly. Her left knee buckled.
“I tried to put pressure on it and it hurt,” Carolan said.
A visit to urgent care confirmed what she knew.
Carolan had surgery on Dec. 22 of that season. She didn’t want to miss any school and didn’t want to return after the two-week holiday break having to use crutches. She remained committed to her team, rarely missing a practice and going to all the games.
Fast forward to this season and Carolan and Sammie Culton are the lone seniors.
Carolan played with juniors Katie Hawkins and Kalle Crouch and twins Lacie and Lexie Hull starting in third grade. Their AAU teams won league titles for four straight years, and probable lifelong friendships were forged during that time.
“Everybody missed playing with her last year and next year it will be tough,” Lacie Hull said. “She has a very positive attitude and brings laughter and happiness to practice every day. There is something about her that makes the spirit change when she walks in the room. She lightens the mood and makes every game and practice that much more fun.”
Lexie Hull agreed.
“Her enthusiasm is definitely infectious and gets the team going,” Lexie said. “When someone needs to step it up in practice, she will be the first to let them know. That makes her an amazing leader. She makes me better as well as the team with everything she does. Next year won’t be the same without her.”
The Hulls said that there’s always one voice that can be heard over the din of a crowd.
“She’s the loudest voice, including Rehkow,” Lexie said.
Carolan was going to be a starter last year before the season-ending injury.
She sat down with Rehkow before the season to talk about her role. She didn’t expect to be a starter since all of the starters returned from the year before.
“I wanted what was best for the team,” Carolan said.
Carolan has been the first player off the bench all year. She’s essentially CV’s sixth starter.
“She would be the leading scorer on many other teams,” Rehkow said. “Even on our team she’s capable of scoring 10 points a game. She provides a spark that I’ve never had from anyone coming off the bench. I’ve had good sixth players, but she brings adrenalin and feistiness. Those qualities are hard to find.”
Carolan started on Senior Night and a couple other times when starters were sick.
“I wouldn’t flinch if I had to start her,” Rehkow said. “You know what you’re going to get every time you put her on the floor.”
Said Carolan: “I’ve adapted to my role. I like where I’m at. Of all the years I’ve played, I haven’t been on a team that has had better chemistry.”
The most important thing is Carolan is usually on the court when it matters most.
“She understands her role,” Rehkow said. “She plays hard-nose defense, gets rebounds, brings fire and energy and wins 50-50 balls. Her scoring is a bonus. We know she can score. But she’s very unselfish.”
Rehkow hopes people appreciate what Carolan has done this season.
“There’s a special place in a coach’s heart when you have a kid sacrifice their own personal gain for the team,” he said. “She’s the epitome of a team player.”
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