Makenna Schultz stands at 5-foot-2. By basketball standards that’s not very tall.
And while her stature may be small, it seems her shoulders are plenty broad enough to carry an entire basketball team on her back – something she’s done time and again during her high school career at River Ridge.
Take last year’s 2A regional state playoff game at Pullman. The Hawks trailed by seven points in the fourth quarter. With a berth into the round of 8 on the line, Makenna took over, scoring all 14 of her team’s points in the final frame to rally River Ridge to a 44-43 road victory over the Greyhounds.
“The bigger the situation, the bigger she always plays,” said Makenna’s father Steve Schultz, who is in his first season as the Hawks’ head girls basketball coach. “It’s all about the win with her. It’s all about the scoreboard. She’s miserable when she loses. She’ll shut down. It takes a while for her to recover. That competitiveness is just inside her.”
Fortunately, for Makenna the wins have far exceeded the defeats during her time at River Ridge. A four-year starter, Makenna is one of the Hawks’ all-time career scoring leaders. During her junior campaign she scored 22 points a contest. This season she’s averaging around 21 a game as River Ridge attempts to return to the state playoffs.
While this year is Steve’s first at the helm of the Lady Hawks, he’s hardly unfamiliar with the team and its players as he has been instrumental in helping River Ridge’s successful youth basketball program for more than a dozen years.
He wasn’t alone whenever he participated in a youth camp at the school. Makenna was always right there with him.
“I remember her at 4-years-old doing ball handling drills two nights a week,” said Steve, who just completed his 14th season as River Ridge’s head football coach. “She was always around the program here. She would always be practicing. All you could see is this big head of hair and ball and she’s just loving it. The older (River Ridge) girls who would go on and win state titles here would always be encouraging her.”
Makenna hasn’t stopped working on her game since.
“I can’t. It’s natural,” Makenna said about the desire to constantly be practicing. “I know I need to put time in because I know if I don’t it will end up hurting me. I love basketball. I couldn’t live without it.”
Growing up, it was a common sight to see Makenna playing pick-up games with her older brother Colby and cousins Brad and Garrett Wallace.
“It was always competitive,” Makenna said. “We are always fighting for something. No one wanted to lose.”
A full basketball court at the end of their cul-de-sac was the venue for countless family battles between the quartet. Always undersized among the four, Makenna held her own within the group.
“She was always playing, and no one lets anyone win in this family. It always seemed to get heated,” Steve remembers. “One of things we wanted to make sure of is that (basketball) wasn’t her whole life. Because it’s not going to be her whole life. But it wasn’t like that for her. She played other sports. She played soccer. She had friends. She was very active, but we’d be at home and hear the basketball bouncing. I don’t think she’s gone three days without getting into the gym even when we told her to take a day off.”
“It’s funny because I didn’t push any of my kids into athletics,” Steve said. “If they didn’t play any sports that was fine. My wife was a college basketball player (at Saint Martin’s University). I played football at Whitworth. I guess in our family it was just a natural thing to do.”
Makenna burst onto the local high school basketball scene as a freshman, possessing speed and quickness combined with an overall understanding of the game which far exceeded her age. It didn’t take long for her to crack the starting lineup.
It was during her sophomore season where the thought of playing collegiate reached an all-time high for her, driving her to seek additional programs which played the sport year-round.
She quickly found the Seattle Rotary Basketball Program – one of the most successful select basketball programs in the state which competes in tournaments around the nation.
“No (college) was looking at me,” Makenna said. “I just wanted to do everything I could to improve.”
Makenna tried out and made the squad her sophomore year and soon was matching up against several of the Northwest’s best players at practice.
“She wanted to try out, so we said, ‘Let’s throw her into the fire,’” Steve said. “She needed to play against length and speed if she wanted to play at the next level. The way they play, it’s all about production. She knew where to be on defense and how to score. All of a sudden she’s starting for their first group and she’s guarding girls that are 5-10. That experience allowed her to grow both as a player and as a person.”
Now, the player no one was looking at was drawing interest, and while she traveled the country playing in tournaments in Las Vegas, Orlando, Nashville and San Diego, it was her hometown of Lacey where she eventually decided to play her college ball at. Makenna committed to Saint Martin’s University, prior to the start of her senior season.
“I am very family oriented,” Makenna said. “My mom went there. My uncle and grandfather went there. My entire family has gone there. I’ve always wanted to go to Saint Martin’s. I’ve watched them play since I was little. So, it was always a dream of mine to go there. I was going to look at other schools, but right after I got back from my visit I knew that this was the school for me.”
Before she slips on her Saints jersey, however, Makenna looks to lead a young Hawks squad back to the postseason to close out a her Hawks career.
“State is always the goal,” Makenna said. “This year has been exciting. We have so many younger players stepping up. It’s motivating.”