Girls Basketball: Newport’s Kingma uses family ties to strengthen game

When Newport junior Betsy Kingma is on the court, she plays with “no fear” says coach Travis Whitaker.

When Newport junior Betsy Kingma is on the court, she plays with “no fear” says coach Travis Whitaker.

One could reason that after enduring the front-yard battles of a basketball-crazed family, there’s not a whole lot to fear on the high school court for Kingma, a two-time All-KingCo First-Team player for the Knights.

It’s the Kingma family battles where Betsy honed her skills over the years. And its these same battles that have the junior ready to lead the Knights back to a state tournament appearance for the first time since 1990.

“The difference between Betsy and a lot of other kids is that she doesn’t have any fear going at it,” Whitaker said. “Of course, the genes don’t hurt anything.”

A basketball family

The Kingma name has become quite familiar with success.

Betsy Kingma is in her third season on varsity for the Knights. Her father, Steve, played at Pacific Lutheran, while her uncle Gregg was an All-American basketball player at Seattle Pacific. Aunt Gail, Gregg’s wife, was a four-time qualifier for the Olympic marathon trials. Brett Kingma, Betsy’s cousin, is a standout sophomore at Jackson, while Kristi Kingma, Brett’s older sister, had a phenomenal career at the same school, leading Jackson to three-straight state tournament appearances and numerous accolades before landing at the University of Washington, where she’s averaging 10.3 points per games as a freshman for the year.

“And my mom played basketball in middle school,” Betsy Kingma says with a laugh.

Add it all together and you have a recipe for intense family battles in the driveway, much like the one that took place this Thanksgiving, at Gregg and Gail’s Mill Creek house.

“It’s a friendly competition, but it does get heated and intense,” Kingma said. “But we’re all such big supporters of each other. We’ve always done that since we were little and it’s really given me some good people to look up to, Kristi in particular.”

Kristi Kingma earned honors and accolades each year she played for Jackson, averaging 23.1 points per game as a senior, and even setting a 4A state tournament scoring record with 43 points in a game against Skyview.

“Kristi is at that next step that I’d love to get to,” Kingma said. “She’s the one that when I have questions about what I should do in a situation, whether its on the court or with recruiting, she’s a great resource for me.”

Garnering interest

Now it’s the Newport Kingma who is getting the college interest. Oregon State, Gonzaga, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount are among the teams that have expressed interest in Kingma, who averaged 14.1 points per game last season.

The scary thing for Newport opponents is that she’s getting even better, says Whitaker, the ninth-year coach of the Knights.

“She was the most ready kid we’ve ever had come in here, and her game is expanding for sure,” he said. “Last year was an interesting year because she went under the radar her freshman year, but last year, teams knew who she was and game-planned for her. She struggled a bit at times with that, but it made her grow up a lot and become a more confident player to have gone through those things.”

The key, Whitaker says, is the great shot Kingma possesses. She’s progressed from a spot shooter her freshman year, to creating off the dribble and becoming a player who can get to the basket, he says.

“Plus I think she’s going to show people what a good defensive player she’s become,” Whitaker said.

Teammates say the only thing better than her skills on the court is her attitude.

“Playing with Betsy is awesome because she’s an amazing player who brings so much,” said senior Christina Meehan. “She’s everywhere and she’s such a good teammate. She’s always willing to help out and has a great attitude.

“She’ll always give her all no matter what.”

A new challenge

With a new year comes a new challenge for the Knights. After a 16-8 season and falling short in heartbreaking fashion to Bainbridge in the Sea-King District tournament, Newport has moved from KingCo 3A to 4A. That means new teams, new rivalries and new roadblocks on the way to state. Kingma’s play will be one of the keys for a Knights team looking for success amidst unfamiliar faces.

“It’s a great challenge and it’s going to be different,” Kingma said. “It’s a whole new fresh start for us and I think it will be good for us.”

The Knights proved they’re up to the task, winning the first conference game, a commanding 68-59 victory over Eastlake, considered by many to be a team contending for the league crown.

“I saw a lot of confidence come out in these girls in that game,” Whitaker said.

So Kingma, who hopes to play at Gonzaga, will continue to lead Newport, having already weathered the storm of the family game, hoping to carve out her own legacy apart from that of her successful surname, avoiding the obvious parallel’s of Kristi’s success.

“Kristi and I are different players - we play different positions, we each have our strengths and weaknesses and that’s fine,” she said. “I’m not trying to be Kristi. But I am trying to learn from her.”

Joel Willits can be reached at 425-453-5045 or at jwillits@bellevuenews.us.