She’s just a freshman, usually the ones sitting on the end of the bench and considered too young to start. But when the starting lineups were announced for Pe Ell High School’s girls’ basketball team this season, Charlotte “Charlie” Carper wasn’t just sitting there, cheering. She’s the one running out on the court, ready to start another game.
After starting in every game for the Trojans this season, Carper is second on the team in scoring, averaging 8.9 points and scoring a season-high 20 points.
“She’s very quick,” said Randy Driver, the Trojans coach. “And she’s very coachable.”
Carper is no stranger to being on varsity. Last year as an eighth-grader, Carper played on the high school team, mixing her time between the varsity and the junior varsity and even starting the last couple of games. So, even as a young freshman this season, she is no rookie.
“At first it was very stressful, but it didn’t take long for it to become just like normal,” Carper said about playing on varsity as a middle schooler. “The change of pace was a lot. But it was just a lot of fun after a while. It made it a lot less stressful by playing last year.”
She adapted quickly to carrying a scorer’s role this season, of being a go-to shooter. Yet there are times she still needs prodding, some reminders from her coach.
“She does it fine in practice, but she doesn’t always do it in games,” Driver said about Carper taking shots. “At times, I still need to remind her every once in a while. I try to get her to shoot from the outside a little bit more.”
She admits taking shots and being the freshman popping the open jump shot, isn’t always easy.
“Shooting in general, I’ve never wanted to do because I don’t have the most confidence in that,” Carper said. “But it’s helped a lot because it’s made me want to shoot a little more.”
Carper began playing basketball when she was in third grade. Back in grade school, she got a lesson in being rough and tough by playing a sport girls don’t often play – football. It was something she wanted to pursue.
Her mom, Kelly Kanick, wasn’t worried about her daughter playing linebacker and wide receiver. “No, I wasn’t worried,” Kanick said. “That’s because the girl is very committed.”
When Carper does something, she commits to it and not just in sports. She’s also committed in the classroom. Last semester, she had an impressive 3.95 GPA. In the spring, she will turn out for track.
“Charlie is very quiet, but when she wants to do something, it’s all or nothing,” Kanick said. “She puts everything into it. Even with football. They have weight restrictions. Even though she was young, she’d get to the point where she’d watch what she ate and was eating healthy.”
Kanick remembers going in the backyard with her daughter and tossing the football around, giving her the feel for how to catch the ball.
“This was as a young kid. She was always determined,” Kanick said. “When she gets into something she puts her all into it. She didn’t even know how to play football, but she decided she wanted to. So, we started playing catch just so she got used to the football.”
Carper had fun tackling and playing football. “It was so much fun,” she said. “I loved playing.”
Carper has always had a drive to play sports. Sometimes parents prod their kids into playing, wanting them to get involved in a sport that will teach them how to work hard. Carper has always been the one who says she wants to do it.
“You know how sometimes people are just naturally talented in athletics,” Kanick said. “Charlie is just that type of person. When she was little, she would pick up a pogo stick and she could jump on it. She’s just the girl that tried everything. Someone will mention something and she’ll say, ‘I’ll try that.’”
This has been a learn-and-grow season for Carper. Driver has seen a lot of growth. “She became more comfortable,” he said. “She’s taking more outside shots now. She took two in a game recently. She’s getting more confident with that and I’m sure she’ll get better.”
With the Trojans finishing 8-12 during the regular season, they’ve been a team that hasn’t always had great shooting percentage. But they’ve always hustled and played hard. Those are team strengths Driver knew he could always count on.
“We hustle really well,” Driver said. “Against taller teams, the girls are tenacious and they rebound well.”
So much of that is hustle, going hard after that loose ball and it’s what the Trojans did all season. “At times they play good defense as well,” Driver said. “Our offense struggles at times.”
Making a shot is always harder than chasing after the basketball. Helping the Trojans’ offense click and helping them score is Annika Mason. She’s averaging a team-high 11.6 points. At 5-foot-11, she’s one of the tallest players on the team, yet she plays point guard. “She’s one of our better ball handlers,” Driver said.
With just two seniors, Kammi Hill and Megan Krafczyk on the team, things look promising for next season for Pe Ell.
“Yeah, it’s going to be fun,” Carper said. Having fun is just part of the game for Carper and her Pe Ell Trojan teammates.