On first glance, Rachel Hakes’ role on the Woodbury girls’ basketball team has never been clear. She first took the varsity court as a “small and wiry eighth-grader,” before quickly emerging as the primary defensive stopper the next year.
Now, as the team’s lone returning starter, the senior point guard has stepped into the top offensive and defensive roles for the Royals. Hakes has signed to play at Fairfield University in Connecticut next year.
Even when Hakes played her first varsity minutes, though, one detail was clear: She aims to work harder than anyone on the court.
“She’s not the most athletic kid on the court, but she just plays harder than everybody else,” Woodbury coach Megan Kirchenwitz said.
“It’s fun. You don’t get a kid that loves both defense and offense. She plays both ends of the floor hard, and it’s hard to tell which one she gives more to when you watch her play.”
While Hakes’ aggressive nature hasn’t changed, she’s also sprouted to 6-feet and added nearly 30 pounds from when she first put on a varsity jersey. She’s brought the scrappy mentality of an undersized guard into her new frame, which allows her to guard the opposing team’s best offensive player regardless of position.
She still has a point guard’s skill set, and that’s what she plans on using in Fairfield, where she will join 2017 Winona graduate Eden Nibbelink and 2016 Eastview graduate Erika Schlosser.
“I guess it goes back to being competitive,” Hakes said of her aggressive style of play. “I always have a chip on my shoulder. I want to do whatever I can to make my team win.”
While Hakes’ defensive intensity certainly has its benefits, she and Kirchenwitz point out that it’s not perfect. On occasion, Hakes can play too aggressive with her newfound size and get into foul trouble. That can lead to bench time or force her off the opposing team’s primary scorer.
Still, don’t expect anything to change this season.
“I’ve just always been taught to do whatever you can and defense really embodies that,” Hakes said. “I just love making my opponent look really bad and getting in their heads. I think that’s my favorite part of the game.”
Hakes also has the ability to shine offensively. In Woodbury’s season opener at Lakeville North on Tuesday, she paced all scorers with 27 points in a 76-70 loss to the Panthers, who have reached the Class 4A state tournament in five of the past seven years and dropped just two games last season.
Her high school growth spurt includes adding 4 inches in the past year. Now, she matches up physically with opponents from larger schools to complement a work ethic and drive that Kirchenwitz said is unmatched in her 10 years of coaching high school basketball.
“Anything she puts her mind to she’s able to do and go above and beyond expectations because of how much work she puts in,” Kirchenwitz said.
“She has a love for the game and respects the game and is a student of the game. She’ll come scouting with me and I think someday she’ll coach.”
That’s all in the future, though, and beyond what Hakes is thinking.
She said most people are underestimating Woodbury after the program lost the other four starters from last season. But Hakes is used to reversing expectations.
“I always look at her as a throwback because you don’t see kids like her come along as much anymore,” Kirchenwitz said.
“She puts so much time into the game but is still so positive and so humble while doing it.”