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Sarah Palin on the court: competitive, smart, a bit 'foul-prone'

September 30, 2008 |  7:42 am

So what can we learn about Sarah Palin from her days as a high school basketball player in Wasilla, Alaska?Sarah Palin during her days as a high school athlete

The Times' Peter Nicholas was curious about that, so he tracked down her former coach, Don Teeguarden (who now plies his trade at a high school in Washington state).

He recalls a starting guard on the 1982 championship team who was eager to show her skills -- and not always happy about the supporting role she was occasionally assigned.

Nicholas relates that Teeguarden said that year's team had strong "post" players whom he wanted to consistently set up for shots near the basket. His instructions were for Palin and the other guards patrolling the perimeter to make sure those players touched the ball before launching a jump shot.

Great for the girls taking the shot; a bit disappointing for the ball-handlers who wanted to prove they could score too. Said Teeguarden: “From the guards’ point of view, when you throw it in there it’s not coming back. So I understand exactly how they felt about that."

Palin, the coach said, had other ideas about how to run the offense -– and she let him know. But Teeguarden said he very much appreciated the way she handled the strategic conflict.

“There were times when she needed to be convinced that things needed to be done a certain way," he said. “But she wasn’t belligerent. She just wanted to know why we were doing things this way.... She didn’t make scenes in practice, but she was inquisitive about the way things needed to be done. Once she understood, she was on board."

Evaluating the player he coached for four years, Teeguarden said she was “excellent’’ on defense, a strong free-throw shooter and ...

... a bit “foul-prone.’’

“Sarah as a player was very much like Sarah as a person. She was very competitive. Very hard-working, intelligent. She had the kind of qualities you’d like your players to have. A good teammate. She had a strong will; still does.’’

So how did he react when he learned she would be John McCain’s running mate?

The coach: “I, like everybody else, was a little bit blindsided by the announcement.’’

-- Don Frederick

Photo: Heath family

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