Player Feature: Caitlin Wheeler

Entering her senior season at Bend, Caitlin Wheeler had seen and experienced just about anything you can think of as a Lava Bear. Two state semifinals appearances, a transition from 5A to 6A, two playoff appearances in the new classification, a new conference full of mystery teams, etc. For Caitlin, the transition was kind of a shell shock, realizing that 6A was a “whole new breed of ballers” in comparison to 5A. However, as she reflects on her career, Caitlin provided Elite Oregon Girls with some insight on her time as a Lava Bear, her experiences, and other things!

Favorite Experiences At Bend

As your career wraps up at Bend, you made two state semifinals appearances and four playoff appearances total. Reflecting, what would you say are your favorite experiences as a player on the court?

“It’s difficult to narrow it down to just a few experiences, but my sophomore year state tournament and our round 1 playoff game this season have had to be my favorites. After taking home the IMC championship and making it through playoffs my sophomore year, we made it to the 5A state tournament for the second year in a row. We finished with fifth place, but basketball aside, the experience with that team was unmatched. Our first round playoff game against Grant was definitely our best overall game all season. Every single one of us had a common goal in mind and played together as a team like no other.”

Photo: Caitlin Wheeler

Transitioning from 5A to 6A

Your final two years are marked by the transition from 5A to 6A, tackling the challenge of facing a whole new crop of schools every season. How did you personally embrace the transition and the challenges with it?

“I quickly learned that 6A basketball players are a whole new breed of ballers. Normally we would cruise right through the IMC and typically go undefeated during regular season. Despite the new speed and physicality of basketball, we had to learn and adapt; our second year of playing at the 6A level proved our mental toughness and drive.”

Growing Into A Leader

You are a locker room and on the court leader for Bend, what makes this program so tight knit and how have you grown into a strong leader for your teams?

“This year alone has been one of the best years for our team connection and overall friendship. We all get along so well off the court and share so many fun memories that we can trust one. At practice we battle it out against each other, but know when basketball is over we can laugh and joke as teammates and friends. Leadership for this team can come from anyone and everyone. Just because you are a senior or have varsity experience doesn’t mean you are a leader. My philosophy is to lead by example, which includes always working as hard as possible, but most importantly I try to lead with integrity. I want my teammates to feel they have a voice and know that they are valuable to this team. But above all I want my girls to have fun and compete because that’s really why we all play.”

Photo: Caitlin Wheeler

Going from Bend to Western Oregon

Moving ahead in life, you’ll be attending WOU next year. What are you most looking forward to at WOU?

“Of course I look forward to playing the sport I love at the next level, but I cannot wait to pursue higher education and continue down the route of forensic psychology. God has blessed me to be able to play the sport I was born to play at such a competitive level and the ability to attend college.”

Learning Lessons from Bend

Finally, as a leader you’ve had many moments and experiences as a Lava Bear. What are the biggest things you are taking with you to WOU from your time at Bend?

“Something Bend High has taught me is character. Through my 4 years I have endured some rough patches and made plenty of mistakes. I can guarantee though every slip up has taught me a greater lesson and made me work just that much harder. Regardless of my circumstances, I know i have the mental toughness and dedication to persevere.”

Caitlin will begin her career at Western Oregon University in Fall 2020!

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