The Devin Coppinger Story, Part III: Making History And Leaving A Legacy

 The rumors about the freshman superstar were floating around the Northwest Conference even before Devin Coppinger’s first high school game, but nowhere was the anticipation higher than in the Valley.

In the fall of 2020 in the midst of the COVID scare, Devin and fellow freshman Lainey Kimball joined childhood friends and long-time teammates Hallie Kamphouse and Taylor Lentz on the Nooksack Valley High School varsity squad.

“That’s one of the things that makes that group so special,” Devin’s mother, Terra, said of the foursome nicknamed the Valley Girls.

“The core have been friends as well as teammates. Those relationships have helped to build that anticipation and excitement — with the families for sure, the community, their teachers. They’ve all seen what makes that group so inspiring.”

Whatcom Hoops concludes its three-part series on Nooksack Valley star Devin Coppinger today. To see the first two stories, click on Devin’s Story Part I and Devin’s Story Part II.

It wasn’t like the Pioneers hadn’t had any success before the Valley Girls arrived. Nooksack’s storied history included 25 state appearances and 11 state trophies, including the Cinderella 1985 team that upset three favorites to reach the Class 1A state championship game.

In fact, when Devin was an eighth grader, she watched the Pioneers play undefeated Cashmere and senior Hailey Van Lith, one of the state’s all-time great players, in the state regionals. It wasn’t pretty — Nooksack lost 61-26 — but at least one soon-to-be Pioneer wasn’t intimidated.

“She wanted to be out there with Nooksack playing Hailey Van Lith,” said her father, Mike. “She said, ‘I want to go against her.’”

Devin wouldn’t get that chance — at least not in high school — but she would get a chance to do something Van Lith never accomplished: win a state title.

Whatcom Hoops February-19-2024
The Pioneers cut down the nets for fun her freshman year.

Freshman Season: Fun But Frustrating

Shane Wichers first heard about young Devin when she was in elementary school. 

“I heard she was a great basketball player,” said Wichers, who is in his 27th year coaching the Nooksack Valley girls basketball team. “I remember watching her in middle school playing with a boys AAU team. She fit right in. I’d never really seen that before.”

Devin would go on to show Wichers — and everyone else — a lot of things they’d never seen before. But she and the rest of the sports world didn’t get much of a chance that first year.

Because of COVID, masks were required, the high school basketball season was shortened and played in the late spring and early summer, and unfortunately for Nooksack Valley, there were no state tournaments.

Still, with Devin fitting in as the point guard on the veteran team, the Pioneers went 12-1, winning their final 10 games. Their only loss was to undefeated Lynden Christian, which returned almost its entire state championship team. (SPOILER ALERT: This wouldn’t be the last time the Pioneers and Lyncs would clash.)

“I was super excited to get to high school,” said Devin. “It’s a different feel especially playing for your school. We played against Shane and (his daughter) McKenna in AAU. But I didn’t want people to think I’m that cocky person who comes in and takes over. That was always a fear of mine.”

She did have a few advantages to overcoming that fear. First, she knew most of the girls either from youth basketball or from volleyball, which she played her freshman and sophomore years. And, of course, she was besties with Kamphouse and Lentz, who as sophomores were already key players on the team.

“I became friends with the girls first, and they were all great and Wichers was, too,” she said. “I meshed well with him and the girls. I know a lot of girls teams have a lot of drama, but all the teams I’ve been involved with there’s not really any drama. There’s more on the boys teams.”

Devin’s contributions were immediate. She not only started but she starred, being named to the all-Whatcom Hoops first team and averaging 18.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.7 steals a game. She scored 21 points in Nooksack’s season-finale win over Ferndale, after which the Pioneers cut down the nets for fun.

“I had followed her but never had anyone of this talent,” said Wichers. “We’ve had good players who have been good at a couple of things. She’s good at all of them, really good. She can shoot and drive, she’s fast, defends, quick, rebounds like no other, strong.

“And anything she perceives as not very good (in her game), she works to improve it. I hadn’t known her very well until high school and heard she was super kind and coachable. And it was totally true. She’s equally confident but never satisfied.”

Maybe most surprising in this age of superstar egos was her willingness to put the team first. Wichers knew even as a freshman, Devin could take over a game with her scoring. So he told her the two of them should have a code word for when it was time for Devin to forget passing and just score.

He asked what the code word she be and she said, “I like tacos.” So “tacos” was the code word. And how often has he used it at a crucial time in a crucial game?

“We never used it,” marveled Wichers. “It was a testimony to her. She understood what’s needed and her ability to do things I hadn’t seen people do before — to be relentless, to never give up.”

Years later, Devin laughed at the “tacos” memory.

“Freshman year was definitely fun,” said Devin. “Nooksack was still an underdog. I felt like it was my duty to bring that type of energy. It was the start of changing Nooksack.” 

The biggest disappointment, of course, was out of their control: the lack of state playoffs. 

“It was frustrating,” she said. “We (Nooksack and Lynden Christian) were the top two teams and could have gone to state. Freshman year was the spark and showed we had it, but also it was, ‘Wow! There’s a lot of work to do from here.”

Whatcom Hoops February-19-2024
The Pioneers were smiling but disappointed with second.

Sophomore Season: Close But No Title

Devin and Nooksack Valley would not take anyone by surprise her sophomore year. With most of the team returning, the Pioneers rolled through the Northwest Conference. They even beat nemesis Lynden Christian on the way to what would be the first of three straight league titles.

“Sophomore year got back to normal,” Kimball said of the post-COVID season. “Our goal was to get to state. I’d been through intense AAU games, going to giant tournaments, but it was a different pressure.”

Still, with Devin leading the way, the Pioneers went into the post-season ranked No.1. Even a loss to Lynden Christian, which was ranked No.2, in the district championship game didn’t deter their confidence.

 “Sophomore year, we came back a lot stronger,” said Devin. “We had a good group. We’d done really well and gotten a lot better … and we were really confident going into state.”

In Yakima, Nooksack and LC overpowered their first two opponents setting up the third and ultimate meeting in the Class 1A state championship game. For anyone who was there, it was a classic that won’t soon be forgotten.

The two titans battled back and forth and the game went into overtime. It looked like the Lyncs would pull of the upset but Nooksack Valley battled back in the final seconds to take the lead. Until …

LC senior Libby Stump, one of Devin’s friends from Tree of Hope, sank the final shot that gave the Lyncs a 65-64 win and ended Nooksack Valley’s championship dream.

The Pioneers would finish 21-4 and second in state and Devin would be named all-state after averaging 20.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 3 steals a game.

Surprisingly — and perhaps because of what was to come — Devin wasn’t broken-hearted by the shattered dream. If anything, it fueled her drive to bring a state title to the Valley.

“The championship game was a tough one,” she said. “I was proud of that season. It was already making history making it to that (championship) game. It added wood to the fire. We said, ‘That’s not happening again.'”

Whatcom Hoops February-19-2024
The Valley Girls bring Nooksack its first state title.

Junior Season: The Pioneers Make History

After coming so close the year before, Devin and her teammates weren’t going to be denied in the 2022-23 season. It was a matter of taking care of business starting with off-season workouts, weight lifting, and an even more serious attitude.

“Obviously, we were sore from losing (the championship game), and the girls were locked in,” Devin said. “From the beginning that was how I was going to play (we’re not going to lose), and Lainey, Taylor, and Hallie had that too.”

Wichers could see the change in the entire team.

“The returners said, ‘We want to get back here and we’re not losing,” said the coach. “They had a chip on their shoulders. They all worked hard and that translates. If your best player does it, then I should do it.”

The hard work paid off as once again the Pioneers earned the No.1 ranking by beating everybody but Class 4A power Tahoma, losing by two points. But this time they wouldn’t be denied — even by Lynden Christian.

Nooksack Valley beat the Lyncs by 14 in the regular season, 10 in the district finals, and — finally — by seven in the state championship game before a Yakima SunDome full of the purple-clad Valley faithful.

The Pioneers finished 27-1 and put their stamp in the history books by winning the school’s first girls basketball state title. Devin was named the 1A player of the year, averaging 22.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 3.3 steals a game.

“It was amazing,” said Devin. “We were super happy, excited and proud,. A lot of my excitement came from everyone who was there and the community and its support. There was so much joy. We were proud of how far we’d come.”

Kimball, who later that spring would also be part of the Nooksack Valley fastpitch team’s first state title, was excited to be part of history.

“Junior year we came in with the mindset that there’s nothing stopping us; we were out for blood,” said Kimball of the basketball team. “That season ended the way we wanted it to. It felt awesome, validating … for the whole state to see we were the ones to do it, to see 10 years of work we’d put in pay off.”

And yet, their leader still wasn’t satisfied.

“We won and had our after party, but personally I was like, ’It’s time to move on and keep things going,’” Devin said. “The goal is to win again. You can’t sit in that joy forever. You can’t bask in the glory forever.”

Whatcom Hoops February-19-2024
Seniors Devin, Lainey, Tana Hoekema and Kaylee Anderson

Senior Season: One More Goal

Devin’s high school basketball career only has another 10 or so days left before she hangs up her purple and gold jersey. Nooksack Valley will begin defense of its state title against Toppenish on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the state regionals at Mount Vernon High School.

From there, the top-ranked Pioneers will head to Yakima, where they will be the heavy favorites to win their second straight state crown. But despite the pressure — and missing the graduated Kamphouse and Lentz — Devin has been enjoying her senior year.

“It’s been really fun,” she said. “We’re really good at staying competitive at practice, but we want to keep it fun. We have a good group of girls, but it’s always intense too. Everyone has an end goal in mind.”

Kimball and fellow seniors Tana Hoekema and Kaylee Anderson have been enjoying their final season, too, in part because of Devin’s antics.

“Playing basketball with Devin means she’s going to push you in practice, she’s going to make you be your best all the time,” said Kimball. “But she makes it fun and silly. In games with Devin, it’s energetic and crazy, focused. But every once in a while it’s fun and enjoyable, sitting on the bench cracking a joke or singing a song. She brings a smile to our faces.”

A big reason Devin has been able to relax her senior season was because she made her decision last summer to sign with the University of Washington. 

She had narrowed it down to the UW, Washington State, Arizona, Oregon, and Gonzaga and at one time was ready to leave the state. But after visiting Seattle on her first official visit, she knew she wanted to stay in purple and gold and be a Dawg.

“I loved the coaches and met some of the players and I knew I could be friends with them,” she said. “I definitely felt relief … not as much pressure having to make this big decision going into the senior year and just have fun.”

Fun and unstoppable. The Pioneers are 22-1, the only loss coming to one of the best big schools in Idaho. Among their victims were two No.1 teams — 3A Mead and 2A Lynden. Nooksack Valley’s average margin of victory is 33 points with an eight-point win over — who else? — Lynden Christian in the district final being the closest game.

And once again, Devin is putting up great numbers — 22.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.7 assist, and 3.4 steals per game — and will no doubt be again named the 1A player of the year and be on the all-state, all-classification first team.

Should that happen and if Devin were to finish her prep career holding the state championship trophy again on March 2, only one question remains: What will her legacy be?

Whatcom Hoops February-19-2024
Devin with one of her young fans

Devin’s Surprising Lasting Legacy 

So how good is Devin Coppinger? ESPN has her as its 37th best senior in the country. She was one of only two Washington state players nominated for the McDonald’s All-American Game. She even had KING-TV feature her in a special story. (Check it out at KING-5 Prep Zone.)

Already Nooksack Valley’s all-time leading scorer, Devin has even been mentioned as the best girls basketball player to come out of Whatcom County, which has produced at least 15 Division I players over the years. (See list below.) 

That title has been reserved for Susan Anderson since 1986, when she finished her illustrious Mount Baker career as the all-time 1A state scorer and was named the national Gatorade Player of the Year. She would go on to star at the University of Texas and play professionally in Brazil and Japan.

Of course, they were different types of players, it was a different era, and Devin has at least one thing that Anderson was unable to accomplish: a state title.

But the numbers and even the GOAT talk (“greatest of all-time” for those not up on the lingo), isn’t important to someone who wouldn’t be satisfied even if she was recognized as the best.

Yes, she’d love to lead the Pioneers to back-to-back state titles. Yes, she’d love to bring a championship to the UW. Yes, she’d love to play professionally after college.

But she wants her legacy to be about something more than Devin Coppinger.

“I want to leave some sort of impact wherever I go,” she said. “That’s always been a goal of mine, no matter what I’m doing, even if it’s just a conversation with someone. You want to leave that person or place and leave them an impression that’s good.”

Wichers remembered when Devin came to him last summer with an idea for a senior project. Nooksack Valley had a team camp for younger players and Devin asked the coach if she could hang out with them.

“Pretty soon she’s teaching them how to encourage the players who went in (the game),” he said. “She stepped in and saw a need. The incoming freshmen and eighth graders, they’ll listen to Devin more than us (coaches). After that, they had great energy on the bench. And she was only there for one afternoon.

“It’s been an amazing experience for me to coach her. I’m blessed, and I’ve learned a lot from Devin.”

Encouraging and lifting up others — especially young girls — is a role Devin was made for.

“We have a lot of little girls going to our games,” she said. “They sit behind our bench and hand me shoes to sign or all of a sudden a wrist comes out. ‘Can you sign it?’

“These girls are able to see our toughness on the court and to see that girls can do it too. They watch us have joy in the game and they take that away. I hope that’s an inspiration for them, for whatever their dreams are.”

Just like the dreams that came true for a little Valley Girl.

Whatcom Hoops February-19-2024
Mike and Terra Coppinger watch Devin sign to be a Husky.


Martha “Muff” Reinert, Sehome 1979 (New Mexico)

Susan Anderson, Mount Baker 1986 (Texas)

Cari Chamberlin, Sehome 1986 (Oral Roberts)

Lynn Munday, Mount Baker 1986 (Maryland)

Julie Wynstra, Lynden Christian 1998 (Idaho)

Jessica Summers, Blaine 2004 (Idaho)

Brianne Ryan, Lynden Christian 2008 (Eastern Washington)

Courtney Van Brocklin, Mount Baker 2008 (Boise State/Portland State)

Kenzie DeBoer, Lynden Christian 2009 (Montana)

Kayleigh Ryan, Lynden Christian 2011 (Eastern Washington)

Jasmine Hommes, Lynden Christian 2012 (Montana State)

Stephanie Soares, Mount Baker 2017* (Iowa State)

Isabela Hernandez, Lynden Christian 2019 (San Diego State)

Aspen Garrison, Sehome 2021 (St. Mary’s, now Western Washington)

Emily Mellema, Lynden Christian 2021 (Wyoming)

Libby Stump, Lynden Christian 2022 (Montana)

* Soares was a sophomore when she played for Mount Baker.

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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