The Devin Coppinger Story, Part I: Independent From The Beginning

Devin Coppinger.

If you follow high school basketball in Washington state, you’ve heard of her. If you are from Whatcom County, you’ve probably seen her play.

But who is the 18-year-old from Everson who will be winding up her illustrious career in the Class 1A state tournament next week?

Is she the stony-faced all-state guard whose unrelenting will and exceptional skill powered Nooksack Valley to its first state championship last March? Is she one of the best players in the nation, who will be taking her talents to the University of Washington next year?

Yes and yes. But she’s more than just an outstanding basketball player, one of the best to ever play in our county.

Whatcom Hoops’s three-part series on Nooksack Valley star Devin Coppinger continues Tuesday and Wednesday. Check them out at Devin’s Story II and Devin’s Story III.

“She’s always been very kind and caring and wanting to help,” said her mother, Terra Coppinger. “If there’s someone who’s struggling with something, she wants to come alongside and help them. She’s one of the nicest people I know.”

Okay, but that’s her Mom. What do her teammates have to say about Devin?

“She’s very selfless,” said Lainey Kimball, a fellow senior on Nooksack’s No.1-ranked team. “She cares about her friends and family more than herself. She puts everyone else first.”

Okay, so that’s one of her long-time best friends. But what does her coach, who has seen Devin at both her best and worst, have to say?

“She’s the kind of person who gets along with everybody,” said Nooksack Valley coach Shane Wichers. “She wants to be the best version of herself at whatever she wants to do but not at the expense of anyone else. She doesn’t lord it over anyone even though she has every reason to.”

So maybe there’s more to Devin Coppinger than what we see on the court. Maybe she’s like any other normal teenage girl who loves baking, staying up all night to read the “Twilight” series, binge-watching “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gilmore Girls,” and showing off her prom royalty tiara.

Of course, most normal teenage girls aren’t featured on KING-TV or named one ESPN’s top players in the nation. So there must be something different about Devin Coppinger. Well, let’s start with her childhood.

Whatcom Hoops February-18-2024
Even at 4, little Devin knew what she loved.

From The Start, It Was Basketball

The middle child sandwiched between brothers Cody and Cole, Devin was born into an athletic family.

Her Dad, Mike, was one of the many Coppinger boys who made a name for himself starring in basketball at Nooksack in the early 1990s. Terra played basketball, volleyball, and slowpitch for Lynden and has since competed in body building and fitness events as well as extreme running races.

So naturally, little Devin had lots of opportunities to play sports.

“All our kids played all the sports,” said Mike. “And she did really well with all of them: soccer, volleyball, track, fastpitch. She even did cheerleading.”

“She had little pom, poms,” said her proud mother.

But right away, there was something about basketball that attracted her.

“I always liked basketball the best,” said Devin. “I think it was cool that my older brother (Cody) did basketball and my Dad was always around (coaching her). That’s probably why it started. I guess I was good at it, and then I worked at it. That’s the one I continued to love.”

Did her parents know she would be a star? They had an inkling.

Even before moving from Renton, where the family lived when Devin was born, to Everson, Mike helped at Mike Elsner’s basketball camps in Bellingham. And at 3-years-old, little Devin was doing the drills with the boys.

“We’d be doing ball-handling (with the campers), then pretty soon she would be off by herself doing her own thing,” said Mike. “She wanted to be better than the boys, so she’d spend her own time doing it.”

Whatcom Hoops February-18-2024
Terra and Mike enjoying a rare quiet time with Devin

Competing With (And Beating) The Boys

Doing her own thing and being better than the boys are two themes that run through Devin’s early life.

On the Coppinger side, she’s the only girl among the eight cousins her age. On Terra’s VanderPloeg side, Devin’s girl cousins were way younger, which meant she spent most of her growing-up years playing — and competing with — the boys.

“The boys didn’t cut her any slack,” said Mike. “She’d be in the middle of football or baseball or basketball games when she was young. I did a lot of coaching with Cody at basketball camps, and Dev would just jump in and do all the drills.”

As for being Miss Independent, Terra tells the story of when Devin was about 4 and her mother wanted her to take a nap.

“So Dev would go to her room and she liked to look at books,” Terra recalled. “And one day, she came out and said, ‘Hey, Mom, watch this,’ and she had figured out how to read. She’s been that way with everything.”

Her Dad’s example of Devin’s independent drive is a little more harrowing.

“Devin was always a tagalong,” said Mike. “She didn’t want to ski with Mom and Dad. Nope. ‘I want to ski with the boys.’ We were all going over these jumps, and she blew by all the guys going so fast and just launched. She wanted to one up everybody and we thought, ‘Girl you’re going to kill yourself.’”

Whatcom Hoops February-18-2024
And, yes, her records are still on the wall.

Then there’s the story her PE teacher told the Coppingers when Devin was in elementary school. Every year, the students were timed in the mile run and the school record was posted on the gym wall. That was all the challenge Devin needed.

“Her teacher said Devin was the only kid she ever had who would run until she puked to get records,” said Mike. “To beat her own record, she’d run that hard. Now she has all the records and they are still sitting up there.”

Devin’s competitive spirit and willingness to work hard to reach her goal would serve her well throughout her life. And they were a perfect match for young Devin and her favorite sport.

“It’s easier to work by yourself in basketball,” she said. “A lot of people just don’t want to do it. But I enjoy working by myself because I’m more of an independent person. It was an activity I wanted to do and enjoyed, so I was reaping the benefits from that. The hard work was paying off.”

The pay-off would come early when Devin met her BBFs— best basketball friends.

TOMORROW: Devin And The Valley Girls

Jim Carberry of Whatcom Hoops

Jim Carberry is a former Bellingham Herald sports editor and author of several books on Whatcom County prep basketball. Follow him on Twitter @whatcomhoops and visit the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.

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