In the minutes following his announcement as the new Camas High School girls varsity basketball head coach, Chuck Knight and the Papermakers were challenged by a freak injury to one of their star players.
While coaching the Vancouver Heat at an Amateur Athletic Union summer basketball tournament in San Diego, Knight shared his good news about becoming the Camas coach with upcoming seniors Kat DeVera, Katelyn Henson and Melissa Williams.
“To be able to tell the seniors first was important to me,” Knight said. “It was nice to meet them. We hit it off real well from the beginning.”
Knight hung around watch the girls play their next game. He never could have imagined what happened next.
“I introduce myself, and then 30 seconds into the game, I’m watching and [Henson] takes a tumble and lands hard on her knee,” Knight said. “At that very moment, I knew it was going to be bad. I could have reached out and touched her.”
Henson rehabbed her knee in hopes of returning at some point this season. During a shootaround in open gym, her knee buckled again and she was diagnosed with an torn ACL. The senior is out for the year, but she is not about to miss a practice, a team meeting or a game.
“Her attitude is unbelievable,” Knight said. “I can’t imagine a kid who could handle that type of injury and heartbreak the way she is. She’s still very much a part of this team.”
Losing a senior to injury is not the way any coach wants to start their first year, but Knight believes he can lead Camas to brighter days. He is confident seniors DeVera, Williams and Kayla Roche will provide plenty of sunshine.
“Melissa is rock solid as a leader. Obviously, she’s a pretty good player too,” Knight said. “I expect Kayla to be a vocal leader. She’s a skilled player who can really shine this year.
“Kat is a gamer,” he added. “When the ball gets tossed in, she steps up and competes. She does not back down.”
For the past six years, Knight has coached grade school and high school aged athletes on club basketball teams in the AAU. He has also spent the past 14 years working with at-risk youth at a juvenile facility in Canby, Ore. This is Knight’s first serenade as a high school basketball coach.
“I love kids and I love basketball. What a great combination this job offers,” he said. “I really believe team sports are such a great way to learn about life. I look back at my experiences of playing basketball very fondly, and that is what I want for these kids.
“I hope they can look back on these experiences five years down the road and say this was a cool team to be a part of,” Knight said. “If that happens, that’s a great way to measure success.”