It matters little who stands in the way of Samantha Potter, the bullish 5-foot-10 junior forward at Pacific Lutheran University. If one player – either a teammate in practice or an opponent in a game – tries to muscle her around inside, it is almost always met with a rude rebuttal.
Even Lutes coach Kelly Robinson, a vital member and post player on Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s NCAA Division III national championship squad in 1996, has tried to guard her during practice drills.
“I am pretty strong,” Robinson said. “But she is very strong.”
So the last man standing is Marcus Disney, a first-year PLU assistant who coached at Franklin Pierce High School for seven seasons. Disney is the size of a boulder, and tries to push Potter off spots.
“Marcus remarks how strong she is,” Robinson said. “Nobody on our team can match her strength.”
“It is natural strength,” said Ken Potter, her father. “But she also works really hard at it.”
Her strength and tenacity are the foundation of what is good and reliable with PLU women’s basketball. In her third season as a starter, she is finally the centerpiece of the offense, yet she still seems to get a lot of her points and rebounds just off pure hustle. Potter leads the Lutes in points (13.5) and rebounds (9.6) per game.
In 60 career games, she has 23 double-doubles – meaning she has had at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in the same game. The Lutes (4-7 overall, 1-3 Northwest Conference) open league home action tonight at 6 against Pacific (Ore.) at Olson Auditorium.
“I love the contact,” Potter said. “I have played with a lot of girls who don’t like to touch you. That is my favorite part of the game. I love to get in there and battle.”
The oldest of four siblings, Potter was a standout basketball player and track athlete at Sunset High School in Portland. Her father is the football coach at Jesuit High School, also in Portland. And her uncle, Gene, coaches boys basketball at six-time Class 6A champion Jesuit.
“I kind of grew up with a very competitive sports family,” Samantha Potter said.
Yet, going without one college scholarship offer, Potter began sending out video to schools where she though she could participate in basketball and track. PLU was one of those schools, and she immediately chose the Lutes once she visited.
It didn’t take long for Robinson and her staff to install her as a starter, even as a true freshman.
“Getting her,” Robinson said, “was like finding a needle in a haystack.
“We did not think she would be the player she is. I mean, I knew she would do the little things and do them right, and rebound like she does. I would not have guessed she would have started every game, and been our (leading) scorer for two seasons.”
Potter broke through last season as a sophomore, netting 14 double-doubles, and being named a second-team, all-NWC player despite the Lutes finishing eighth out of nine teams.
Last spring, she was the NWC women’s discus champion, and just missed qualifying for the NCAA championships.
This season, with the Lutes having a group of young perimeter players, they have a reliable veteran in the frontcourt to get the basketball to. And Potter has not disappointed.
“She stays very balanced. Other post players are all over the place, but she is very centered,” Robinson said. “Some (defenders) will push for a while and stop, but she has that mentality that it is a contact sport in the paint. She embraces that.”Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org @ManyHatsMilles