By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

Family matters for Maltman

Courtesy of Linfield sports informationLinfield senior Kaely Maltman has scored 1,229 points and obtained 643 rebounds in her career to date.
Courtesy of Linfield sports information
Linfield senior Kaely Maltman has scored 1,229 points and obtained 643 rebounds in her career to date.

It had to be a surprise celebration. Otherwise, Kaely Maltman would not have gone along with it.

“The look on her face – she was not happy,” Linfield point guard Taylor Solomon recalls. “She was shocked.”

The Wildcats women’s basketball team intended to honor Maltman at halftime of the Jan. 25 men’s basketball game between Linfield and Pacific. So, without telling her beforehand, she was called down to the Ted Wilson Gymnasium court, presented with flowers and recognized for her outstanding career accomplishments.

Entering the Wildcats’ road basketball game against the Boxers tonight, Maltman has amassed 1,229 points and 643 rebounds, the third-best and fifth-best marks, respectively, on Linfield’s career lists. Maltman is one of three women’s basketball players in school history to record at least 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds, the other two being Linfield Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Tina (Rappin) Hill (1983-87) and Gretchen Owens (2009-12).

With two games left to play – the Wildcats play at Pacific tonight at 6 p.m. before returning to Ted Wilson Gymnasium Saturday for a 6 p.m. tilt with Pacific Lutheran – Maltman figures to climb at least two more spots on the rebounding ladder to put her among the top three scorers and rebounds in Linfield history. The 664 rebounds gathered by Colby Cummings (1992-96), second in school history, may be within reach. Especially after a night like Tuesday night, when Maltman scored 18 points and grabbed 21 rebounds as the Wildcats defeated Willamette, 83-53, at home.

However, for goodness’ sake, don’t tell Maltman.

“That was an honor,” Maltman says of crossing the 1,000-point, 500-rebound threshold, “but that’s not my goal as a basketball player.”

The 5-foot-10 Maltman averages 15.3 points and 9.1 rebounds for the Wildcats this season, starting all 23 games to date as Linfield’s de facto center. She guards post players three to five inches taller than her in the Northwest Conference, which sent three teams to the NCAA Division III tournament in 2013 and remains strong in women’s basketball this season.

“Because of her size, she’s smaller than most of the posts she goes up against, so she’s going to beat them with speed,” Wildcats sophomore Jessican McMillan says.

Her size and speed, however, belie a physicality and toughness that comes with being recognized as the opposition’s biggest threat.

“She’s really good at driving to the basket,” Solomon says. “She breaks through three defenders and somehow makes the shot. She’s really good looking out for the wings and kicking out.”

Jocular off the court – Maltman is a huge fan of the 1998 movie “The Parent Trap” and has been known to quote lines from the Harry Potter novels in a British accent at random intervals – Maltman can seemingly flip a switch on the court and tap into her aggressive side.

“She’s really subtle about how competitive she is because she’ll be joking with you on the court one minute and then she’ll blow by you the next,” Linfield freshman Annalise Beshears says.

Beshears, a 6-foot freshman post from Beaverton, often goes up against Maltman in practice. Doing so has been something of an initiation into Division III basketball.

“Even if I know she’s going to, say, slip the screen, she’ll still slip the screen and beat me,” Beshears says.

The Wildcats are unbalanced from a class standpoint – Maltman is the team’s only senior, and post Katelyn Henson is the team’s only junior. To team members, Maltman is far more than simply a leader by default. She is the emotional center of the Wildcats.

“You see NBA players who are all, me, me, me,” Henson says. “Kaely’s like, ‘Don’t talk about me. Stop talking about me.’

“You see that (attitude) all the time, even in Division III. The fact that Kaely’s leading this team with that kind of humility … it’s not like she says a lot. Kaely’s like, I’m going to do it. And then she does it.”

Maltman stays after nearly every practice, sharpening her game, an attribute which Henson notes has carried over to the freshmen and sophomores. Maltman’s dedication to her game is so unwavering that one teammates jokes her hobbies are “Jesus and basketball.” Nonetheless, the extra work has paid off – the Wildcats are 8-15 on the season (4-10 overall) after going 3-19 (1-13 NWC) in 2012-13.

Maltman is vocal on the court, offering praise as well as challenges, but her leadership style off the court is marked by an attention to detail.

“She’s not the same person with everybody,” Henson says. “She’s like, this person needs this and this person needs this, and she just goes down the list.

Henson has grown particularly close to Maltman after sharing a residence with her and Linfield soccer players Lindzee Baker and Laurel Huth. (Maltman, an exercise science and nursing double major, now lives in Portland and attends classes at Linfield’s Portland campus. She has commuted to McMinnville to participate in basketball this winter.) The Wildcats’ second-best scorer and rebounder, she has attempted to assert herself as a leader alongside Maltman.

“I’m totally the sidekick, but I really want to try to perpetuate what she started with how you treat people on the team, with how her goal is, we want to be a family,” Henson said. “I think she’s done that. She’s done that very well.”

On team leadership, Maltman says, “It’s been very shared. Mo (Henson) has done a phenomenal job, leading by example but she also puts in extra time in gym. To see the transition from not putting a lot of extra time in to now a lot of girls will stay after … to see that leadership from Mo and a lot of other girls, just been very exciting to see.”

Maltman has two years remaining in the Linfield nursing program, after which she will be one of three generations of her family to graduate from the school. (Her parents, Ted and Kimberli Maltman of Sandy, are both Linfield graduates; Ted played for the Wildcats’ men’s basketball team.) Kaely hopes to coach basketball after her playing days come to an end.

The Wildcats may not send her off with a winning record, but that’s the least of her concerns.

“It’s been great,” Maltman says of her last season. “We always talked about in beginning of the season wanting to all be on the same page. That definitely got accomplished. “

“We’ve only known each other for year but it feels like we’ve known each other forever.”

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