When 5-foot-11 basketball player Maddie Willett earned a spot on the varsity roster of the Gig Harbor High School girls basketball team as a freshman, she had to do something she wasn’t used to do: Play in the post.
For her AAU team, she usually plays on the wing. But being one of the tallest players for the Tides meant she was going to have to move her game inside.
It was a challenge at first for Willett, now a junior.
“I’ve gotten a lot better around the rim,” Willett said. “That’s where I had to step up. I learned where I’m supposed to be. I’m stronger. You have to box out way harder, way more. It’s just a different area of the court. I’ve stepped up a lot.”
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Being forced out of her comfort zone has made Willett a more versatile player for third-year coach Megan Murray.
I think she’s really starting to mature mentally. Just with the game of basketball — growing with having that mental toughness.
Megan Murray, Gig Harbor girls coach
“I think she’s really starting to mature mentally,” Murray said. “Just with the game of basketball — growing with having that mental toughness.”
Being able to score in the post didn’t come easy at first, but now it’s a weapon for Willett, who is averaging 12 points per game this season.
“She’s pretty savvy around the basket now,” Murray said. “She has a lot of strength and it shows in rebounding, too. It helps us as a team.”
Now, there’s not much Willett can’t do. She can play nearly every position on the floor effectively, with the exception of perhaps the point guard spot.
“I’m more versatile around every position on the court,” Willett said. “I’m able to play them all.”
And with sophomore guard Brynna Maxwell’s emergence, Willett continues to quietly be one of the best and most productive players on the floor, like she has been since she stepped on the Gig Harbor High campus as a freshman. And with Maxwell, along with a team full of capable players around her, the Tides are flourishing this season.
“We’re are all able to score, able to defend — we have great teamwork,” Willett said. “We don’t just have one player that can score. Everyone can score. Our teamwork is awesome, and that’s all you can really ask for.”
Willett is being actively recruited by a number of Division-I schools, and has garnered interest from a number of Ivy League programs. She mentioned Yale and Dartmouth as two programs that have been speaking with her the most.
She hasn’t decided where she’ll play her college ball. But she’s still got a season-and-a-half of high school ball left. She wants to win a state title, and individually, take her game to the next level.
“I want to become really, really good at defense,” Willett said. “It’s a whole different game at the next level. Everyone is quick, strong, able to score. I want to be better at defending.”