When Tasha McKoy sets up in the post during a basketball game, there's more than meets the eye.
Fans see the Juneau-Douglas High School senior's skilled inside moves, and her ability to jostle, stake out a position and grab rebounds against larger players.
What they may not know is that McKoy is capable of great speed, possesses a smooth outside shot and has played through a team's worth of injuries.
"Because Tash is so effective in the post, we don't bring her out much," Crimson Bear coach Lesslie Knight said. "In college, she'd be a perimeter player. She has the speed, and she has such beautiful form on shooting."
And all that despite two dislocated shoulders, a knee injury and a concussion over the past few seasons. Recently, she's been playing with a fractured hand.
"She's likes being out there with us," Juneau senior Kendri Cesar said of McKoy. "She's never been one to sit and watch."
McKoy, Cesar and their teammates will work to contain Sitka as the Crimson Bears open their Region V-Class 4A season by hosting the Wolves tonight and Saturday at the JDHS main gym. Varsity games begin at 8 p.m. each night, with junior varsity games at 6:15 p.m. and C team matchups at 4:15 p.m.
After a slow start in basketball - she said was "the least coordinated person you'd know" in middle school - McKoy honed her game with the help of teammates like Cesar, and coaches like Knight and former Juneau girls coach Jim Hamey.
McKoy lived near JDHS star Carlos Boozer Jr. - now in the NBA - and used to follow him to the neighborhood playground to watch him play.
Despite her skills at other positions, McKoy ably slipped into the role of center last season to back up Danielle Larson, who now plays for Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Wash.
"People don't understand her strength," Larson said. "She's kind of short for a post, but she's just so strong."
That strength has helped carry her through injuries; her quick recoveries have almost become routine to McKoy's teammates.
"They know I'm going to come back," McKoy said. "They're not surprised anymore."
Knight said McKoy's perseverance makes her a great role model for underclassmen.
"For the younger players, she sets an incredible example of how hard you should go in every practice, in every drill."
The injuries have forced some changes in McKoy's inside moves and her approach to the game.
"My game is all mental now," she said. "I'm not about extravagant play. I'm more fundamental."
At center she's at the hub of the Juneau offense, able to take passes from outside shooters to either drive inside, or dish off to an open teammate on the perimeter.
But this season, McKoy also may be able to better showcase her outside shot because juniors Kate Potter and Jordan Johnston are able to shoulder some of the post duties.
"I'm fine with being post," McKoy said. "But once I have the chance, I'll take the shot."
This weekend's games are the first Region V contests of the season for Juneau, while Sitka split with Ketchikan two weeks ago.
Last week, Juneau (6-5 overall) beat Dimond before losing twice to Lathrop, the state's top-ranked Class 4A girls team in the latest poll. Sitka was routed twice by Dimond.
Sitka (5-9 overall, 1-1 region) is making its first trip to Juneau since the graduation of star Sidney Wyman, who led the Wolves for years. In her place, 5-foot-11 sophomore forward-center Kim Dodson has become the focal point of Sitka's offense.
The Wolves have played eight Class 4A-level opponents this year, compiling a 3-5 record in those games. In the Wolves' three wins, Dodson has averaged more than 22 points a game. In the five losses, she has been held to less than 11 points per contest.
The Wolves also rely on 6-foot-1 senior center Miranda Whitson and junior guard Joy Ribao.
But McKoy said she is looking forward most to matching up against Dodson.
At last March's region tournament, the six-player all-region Class 4A girls team was divided equally among Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka - even though the Crimson Bears finished 8-0 in Southeast and Sitka wound up 1-7.
Dodson got one of Sitka's two all-region spots, while McKoy - despite a strong season, especially on defense - was left off in favor of senior teammates Larson and Amy Neussl.
"She was always given the toughest defensive assignment last year, and she shut them down," Knight said of McKoy.
McKoy hopes for a memorable final season for the senior group of teammates she has played alongside for so many years.
"There's a lot of pressure on me this year to do well," she said. "It's our last year. It's win or nothing."
Beyond the basketball season, McKoy is looking forward to playing soccer for Juneau in the spring. After graduation, she plans to head off to college to study in a science-related field and, maybe, keep playing the game that has shaped much of her life so far.
"Basketball has made me friends. It's made me who I am," McKoy said. "It makes me stronger every day."
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.
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