One would imagine it would be tough living in the shadow of JaQuori McLaughlin, Peninsula High School’s best-ever basketball player who’s playing his hoops at Oregon State University these days. But for little brother Elijah McLaughlin, a junior now at Peninsula, he’s never really cared much about that.
“It’s never really been a big deal for me,” he said. “I’m just trying to make a good name for the program.”
Last year, McLaughlin started some games and came off the bench as the sixth man in others. With a senior-stacked team led by his brother, McLaughlin was best described as a role player last season. This year? He’s the team’s focal point.
He’s the starting point guard and averaging 13.2 points per game (second on the team), three assists (first), four rebounds (second) and 2.4 steals (first).
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“It’s pretty fun being able to lead the team and have the green light,” McLaughlin said.
Everything Peninsula does on offense goes through McLaughlin. Although Peninsula coach Matt Robles has only been in the position since the summer, he’s already seen massive improvement from his junior guard.
“It’s been a tremendous leap he’s taken,” Robles said. “He handles the ball for us 75 percent of the time, if not more. He needs to take control, and he’s been doing that. At first, he really wasn’t because he wanted to get his teammates involved. With him being aggressive and having an attacking mentality, it creates for his teammates.
“He goes out there and when he needs to score in certain games, he’ll get his 15, 20. Other games, he’ll find his teammates and have seven or eight assists. Just his growth over the last few months has been great. His future is bright.”
While Robles wasn’t around for JaQuori’s senior season, he’s impressed by the way Elijah carries himself — only concerned about being the best player he can be, and not trying to be his brother.
“It’d be tough for anyone,” Robles said. “JaQuori — state player of the year last year, just all-world. So it’d be tough for anybody. I think Elijah has done a great job of just not trying to be his brother ... just trying to be himself. I think he’s doing a great job leading by example. Being a good teammate. It’s really nice to see him, with I would imagine, some people comparing him to his brother — he doesn’t really worry about that. He just tries to go out and make himself better and his teammates better.”
The Seahawks are 4-8 overall and 0-6 in the Class 3A South Sound Conference. While the wins haven’t yet come, Peninsula has been in nearly every game until the end.
“We’re improving a lot over the season,” McLaughlin said. “We’re starting to play with more urgency. Hopefully, we can build from that and start playing better in the second half of the season.”
Robles agreed with his junior guard.
“People probably think I’m crazy, but we’re improving every day,” Robles said. “We’re very competitive. We’re in almost every game. I think it’s just a new system, new roles, new responsibilities on the court. We’re just learning how to win games.”