Lee Ready to Get Started With Lady Owls
By Matt Baide
Melissa Lee and the Napavine girls basketball team made four trips to the State 2B basketball tournament. After graduating in June, Lee signed to play collegiate basketball at Oregon Tech starting this fall.
Entering Napavine as a freshman, Lee was a two-sport athlete playing volleyball and basketball. It became clear early on that basketball was her sport.
“At the beginning, I really liked volleyball but then basketball just took off for me and I really liked it way more than volleyball and then Mollie just playing it too,” Lee said. “I just just understood it more. With volleyball, it’s really confusing to me and you don’t have any physical contact with anybody like basketball. It’s just not intense to me.”
Even though volleyball wasn’t her main sport, she was able to take some things from volleyball into her basketball regimen.
“I think communication, because communication a lot for volleyball is key because you need to know where everybody is at and if you’re going to take that ball or not,” Lee said. “I think that was really key to … bringing that onto the basketball court as well.”
Lee’s freshman season ended with a trip to Spokane with two losses for an early exit.
Her sophomore season, the Tigers were much better, getting back to the Spokane Arena before making a run to the championship game. Lee recorded a double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds, but Okanogan prevailed over Napavine 60-51 for the state title.
Even with the loss, it is one of Lee’s favorite memories as a Tiger.
“The feeling of going out there and being with the girls was fun,” Lee said.
Napavine secured Lee’s third trip to the state tournament her junior year after earning a win over the higher-ranked Adna in the regional round. The Tigers went to Spokane and lost to Davenport to end their time at the tournament.
The Tigers were dominant throughout the regular season in Lee’s senior year as she took on more of a leadership role.
“It was different. It was a transition, but I think all of us together, all of us seniors really meshed really well,” Lee said. “We had different things we did on the court but we pulled it together.”
Lee averaged 20.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.7 steals and 3.7 assists per game during her senior season.
Napavine was 23-4 overall and 16-0 in Central 2B League games to cruise to the league title.
The Tigers lost 49-48 in the District 4 championship game and lost in regionals to Colfax, 62-56.
At state, Napavine defeated Brewster and Wahkiakum before falling to Davenport and St. George’s to finish fifth and end a year to remember for Lee.
“It was amazing,” Lee said. “It was so fun to go through all that with all the girls we had, too.”
Lee also accomplished the goal she set out before her high school basketball career started.
“My goal once I got in high school was I wanted to go to state all four years and so I accomplished that so I’m pretty proud,” Lee said.
Lee made sure to thank the community of Napavine for their support during her time as a Tiger.
During her senior year, Lee said she made an effort to improve her jump shot and post moves to help her stand out to college coaches.
The recruiting process wasn’t easy for Lee, as she visited schools and had trouble deciding where to take her talents.
“I was going back and forth a lot. I said ‘Oh, I want to go here,’ but then I’d go visit another place and go, ‘oh I want to go here,’” Lee said. “There were some of them with Mollie so we were going on them together. Others I went by myself and explored them. It was tough to figure out where I was going to go. You had to think what was best for yourself and not what everybody else wanted you to do.”
Lee looked into the community college route but decided on the option of a four-year institution.
“My parents wanted me to go to a community college first just to make sure that’s what I wanted to do but then I started looking at four-year (schools),” Lee said. “I liked four-years better because you knew you were going to be there the entire time and you weren’t going to have to find somewhere else to go after those two years.”
Eventually, she went to Klamath Falls to visit Oregon Tech and was sold on the team and school.
“I just loved the girls. They were really fun and they all seemed like they did stuff together a lot and were like a family there,” Lee said. “That is what I liked most about it.”
After signing in June, Lee said it was a relief to finally have the recruiting process end.
“It was really great. It was just a relief to finally sign somewhere and know where you’re going,” Lee said.
Even though she signed, she was still sad because it meant she and Mollie Olson were officially done playing together.
During her visit to Oregon Tech, Lee played in a scrimmage and had someone toss her a full court pass, similar to Olson and Lee’s time in Napavine.
“On my visit, we played a little scrimmage,” Lee said. “We were running the court really fast and there were girls that just chucked it to me just like Mollie.”
Oregon Tech head coach Scott Meredith will be able to use Lee in different roles, whether it be playing on the post near the paint or on the outside as a guard.
“He keeps texting me saying that he wants me to play the four, five area, but he also wants me playing on the wing like a guard,” Lee said. “I’m comfortable with anything but it’s just wherever he needs me I think.”
Oregon Tech finished 20-12 overall last season. The Lady Owls lost to Eastern Oregon University 77-65 in the Cascade Conference Championships semifinals to end the season.
The Lady Owls will return with their entire roster from last season and will include six seniors, so Lee is unsure of how much playing time she will see in her freshman year.
Lee plans on majoring in Computer Science and isn’t sure what career path she’d like to take yet, but hopes to earn a job at a good company like Google or Microsoft.
“I’m not sure where I want to go with that. I’m thinking cybersecurity, that’s really fun, or A.I., something like that,” Lee said.
Lee enjoys the town of Klamath Falls and while she might be a bit homesick at first, she believes she is ready for the next chapter.
“I think I’m ready to explore new things,” Lee said.
During the summer, Lee is working out and continuing to improve her game in the gym while also working for a paycheck.
School and practice start on Sept. 10, and Lee has a goal in mind for her freshman season.
“Work more on gaining more muscle because I’m a little on the skinny side,” Lee said.