Silverdale's Starr keeps her eye on the hoop

Starr Rodenhurst, 12, practices a half-hour each day after school in preparation for her next appearance at the line. - Christopher Carter/staff photo
Starr Rodenhurst, 12, practices a half-hour each day after school in preparation for her next appearance at the line.
— image credit: Christopher Carter/staff photo

For Starr Rodenhurst, every shot she takes feels like the game is on the line.

“It’s like the final game with 10 seconds left,” she said Tuesday.

Starr, a sixth-grader at Silverdale Elementary School, practices a half-hour each day for a nation-wide free-throw contest, honing that focus.

The Elks Hoop Shoot event pits students from ages eight to 13 against one another in a shoot-out competition. In 2007, the then-nine-year-old advanced to the national championship in Springfield, Mass. and placed sixth in the girls age 8-9 category.

Now she is in the running for another shot at the national championship after winning Saturday’s state title in Bellevue.

She will compete at regionals March 6 in Vancouver, going up against contestants from three Northwest states.

She likened the pressure of the contest to having to make game-winning baskets one after another, requiring the kind of focus many kids her age have yet to develop.

“I don’t make eye contact with anyone,” she said.

For a contest driven by concentration, it is vital for her to block out distractions around her while at the line.

“Sometimes I have my brother talk to me and yell at me when I practice to help me focus,” she said.

The focus has resulted in impressive numbers.

Last weekend, where she won by a single shot, she made 18 for 25, or 72 percent. In districts last month, she shot 19 for 25, or 76 percent.

Conversely, NBA star LeBron James has a career average of 74 percent from the line.

Starr’s father, Inoa, said his daughter has the drive that allows her to compete under demanding conditions.

“There is a little bit of inner tenacity,” said Inoa Rodenhurst. “I think she likes that pressure sometimes.”

Silverdale Elementary physical education teacher Cindy Rundlet said she has watched Starr improve and take the competition more seriousy since her trip to nationals three years ago.

“She’s an all-around good athlete,” said Rundlet. “She has just really come into her stride.”

The athleticism and success is already paying off outside the court.

Inoa said the chance for his daughter to travel across the country is sometimes more valuable than winning any contest.

“I think it is priceless for her,” Inoa Rodenhurst said.

Starr, who also plays fastpitch and soccer, said she plans on sticking with basketball and is hoping to make the Central Kitsap Junior High School squad next year.

And, after that, Starr said she is thinking about playing college hoops.

“I want to play for Tennessee. Pat (Summitt) is a great coach,” she said. “I’d really like to play for her.”

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