Unsung hero

Kaitlyn Hunter, center, pushes between Truckee's Marlena Montono, left, and Isabella Abarno during a Lady Wave home game earlier this season.

Kaitlyn Hunter, center, pushes between Truckee's Marlena Montono, left, and Isabella Abarno during a Lady Wave home game earlier this season.

Fallon basketball coach Anne Smith said junior Kaitlyn Hunter has been one of the unsung heroes of this year’s season, and that she was a crucial piece in the team’s undefeated season.

Hunter played in 25 games this season, scoring 89 points including 29 free throws. She also tallied 72 rebounds, 13 assists and 44 steals.

Smith said Hunter plays behind the scenes and, while she doesn’t score as many points as other players, she always contributes to the win.

“She was never high-point offensively; she never was a high defensive rebounder, but she was always doing her role,” Smith said. “It’s phenomenal, what type of player she is.”

When Leta Otuafi was injured early in the season, Hunter took her spot as a starter. Smith said the junior was amazing and did a little of everything well.

Hunter started playing basketball in fifth grade as part of the city’s youth league. She joined to have something fun to occupy her time. She played on the Greenwave teams in middle school and was brought up to varsity last year.

“It was kind of scary, because I didn’t think I was good enough to be on varsity,” Hunter said. “It was a really cool experience.”

Hunter said basketball is her favorite sport. Joining the team, she said, makes the players family and everyone has been close this year. She recalled the players did everything together, even working on homework and studying for shared classes after practice.

“It’s kind of a bittersweet moment that it’s already over,” she said.

Smith describes Hunter as a true team player who gets excited for other people’s success. She recalled when Otuafi returned to playing, the coach put her back in as a starter right before regionals. Smith said players might be bitter or upset at being moved back, but Hunter seemed to accept the decision and showed no sign of jealousy.

“She took it in stride and that had to be hard,” Smith said. “It had to have stung a little bit … it was purely a coaching decision.”

Hunter said her confidence has grown since she started playing high-school basketball. She said Smith is a big part of her growth as a player, since the coach pushes players to grow and ensures everyone is significant.

“That’s a great quality to have, because you know that she wants you there and that you’re needed,” Hunter said. “That helped a lot.”

Smith is also impressed with Hunter’s willingness to hit the court. She noted many players wouldn’t want to fall down; there were multiple times, though, where Hunter hit the ground hard and jumped right back into the game.

“A lot of girls would be afraid to hit the ground after hip surgery,” Smith said. “If she was afraid, she never let that show.”

Hunter has also played volleyball and softball. This year, she was recovering from hip surgery and could not play volleyball. She also decided against playing softball.

While she said it would be “cool” to play college basketball, Hunter said her plans to earn a nursing degree will likely require too much of her time to play college sports.

“Being a student athlete is kind of a full-time job,” she said. “Going to school and having to have a job too, I think it would be too much for me. If I get the opportunity, though, I might.”


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