Kate Starbird ascends to place in prep Hall

todd.milles@thenewstribune.comMay 7, 2014 

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Kate Starbird

MATT HAGEN — Courtesy photo

In her new world, Kate Starbird has deposited her previous star-studded identity — basketball player — in an old, dust-covered cardboard box.

That is where most of the many awards from her storied career as an All-American at Lakes High School and Stanford University, and her eight seasons of professional ball in the American Basketball League (ABL) and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

She is enjoying her new life as an assistant professor at the University of Washington. She works in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering, where her area of expertise is examining the role of social media during major crises.

Her Twitter account confirms her contentment. It also offers a playfully relevant glimpse on how she perceives her involvement in any sport: “Aging athlete.”

“By the time I finished my pro career, I saw every way that (basketball) can bounce,” Starbird said. “I was ready for something else.”

But Wednesday, even for just a few hours, Starbird, 38, will return to where it all started. She is one of the six inductees into the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s Hall of Fame for what she accomplished on the high school court.

Much about her career at Lakes (1989-93), including her career 2,753 points — at the time the all-time scoring mark for a girl in Washington — will be rehashed at the induction at the Renton Pavilion Event Center. In short, she is still one of the giants of the sport in state history.

“It is really exciting and I feel really honored,” said Starbird, who will be joined at the luncheon by her parents, Ed and Margaret, and her wife of nearly six years, Melissa Marsh.

“I always felt Washington state was a great place to play basketball for a high school student. I got great support as a high school player, and even as a college player — not always — and for my pro career as well.”

As laid back as she was off the court, she was a scoring menace on it. Honing her skills against men in Jensen Gym on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the 6-foot-2 guard was unstoppable in high school.

Her senior season was jaw-dropping — she averaged 29.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 5.0 steals and 4.0 blocks per game. She was named to the Parade All-America first team.

“It is interesting after the fact, when you are old and getting gray, and people remember you again for the records,” Starbird said. “I can’t say that is a bad feeling — you get remembered for a second. But I wasn’t always paying attention to how things were landing (for me). I was just enjoying playing the game.”

Starbird said she rarely plays basketball anymore, admitting “it is hard to be very bad at something you were once very good at.”

Instead, she is an avid runner, still lifts weights in the gym, and enjoys skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing and playing Gaelic football, which is a cross between soccer and rugby.

Once in a while, she will sit down and watch a Stanford game on Pac-12 Network, or go see some of her former teammates now coaching in college.

And she did make an effort to see a future Stanford basketball player — Mount Rainier star Brittany McPhee, who leaves the Rams with 2,815 points, second all time to only Davenport’s Jennifer Stinson (2,881 points). Starbird is ranked No. 3.

“I had heard a few times ... that as high school players, we were similar,” Starbird said of McPhee. “As a high school player, I spent a lot of time slashing to the basket. She plays a lot like that.”

Starbird is not so far removed that she cannot gauge the noticeable progress of the sport, especially at the high school level.

“I had great players to play against in high school,” Starbird said. “But I look out there now, everyone has pretty good skills.

“I was a Title IX baby, born in 1975. And in high school 14 years later, we were just getting going. I mean, I would look for tall girls in the hallway and beg them to come out (for basketball) — and they would not know how to play. They don’t have that problem anymore.”

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@thenewstribune.com @ManyHatsMilles

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