It's full speed ahead for La Cañada High's Courtney Chen
La Cañada junior's dedication and complete skill set made her a force to be reckoned with for the Spartans.
La Cañada High junior point guard Courtney Chen is the 2013 All-Area Girls' Basketball Player of the Year. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer / March 30, 2013)
This past season, opponents were probably hoping that Chen would give them a break, as the talented point guard put together a successful season playing for the La Cañada High girls’ team.
“I really don’t like to just sit around and do nothing during basketball season,” Chen said. “You know when the NBA will be on TV or even college, I’ll be sitting around watching that and I just get this feeling like ‘Oh my gosh, I have to go out and play.’ Sitting and watching stuff like that just makes me want to play more.
“I know that there are things that I have to work on with my game and loafing around, I feel like I should be doing things to make myself better.”
Even Chen’s Spartans coach, Tamar Hill, said it’s hard for her to slow down Chen when it comes to the hardwood.
“She is so determined right now to get better that she’ll go and ask the boys’ players if she can work out with them, just so she can improve,” Hill said. “Courtney is always at full speed on every single play, whether it’s in a game or in practice. I have to actually tell her to slow down sometimes. Every play is 100%, she just doesn’t know any other gear.”
With a wealth of exuberance and a will to improve as a player, Chen was a one-person wrecking crew this past season for the Spartans. With an impressive all-around game, Chen would frustrate opponents with her hounding defensive skills or she could make them pay on the offensive end.
With Chen leading the way — and leading the team in almost every major category — La Cañada experienced an impressive campaign. Along with advancing to the CIF Southern Section Division III-A semifinals, the Spartans (20-9) also enjoyed a 20-win season and captured a Rio Hondo League championship.
It is because of Chen’s success that she has been voted the 2012-13 All-Area Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year by the writers and editors of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader, La Cañada Valley Sun and Pasadena Sun.
Chen, who was named to the All-CIF Division III-A first team, played an instrumental part in leading the Spartans to a league championship. However, La Cañada had to rebound to eventually capture the title. After suffering a 25-point loss to South Pasadena on Jan. 23, the Spartans came back to avenge the defeat and notch a 43-34 victory against the Tigers on Feb. 7.
In the win, Chen scored 19 points and had five rebounds.
“It was really important for us to be able to win a league title,” Chen said.
Along with often taking on opponents’ best ball handlers, Chen also could take control of a game on the offensive end, whether it was scoring or getting teammates involved. Along with averaging 14.8 points and 4.2 rebounds a game, Chen also averaged 3.4 steals and 3.3 assists.
Although she battled back spasms and a pinched nerve most of the season, Chen wasn’t about to let her ailments derail her from her goals for the Spartans.
“There were times that I became frustrated with what I was having to go through, but I didn’t want that to stop me,” she said. “It was frustrating because I knew that I could do more if I was 100%, but I just did what I had to do to get better physically.”
To her teammates, Chen is a focused, intense player who is always striving to do what she needs to do to make the team successful. One teammate who has seen Chen’s dedication over the years is Sarah Borland. The two have been teammates since the seventh grade and Borland said she is never surprised at the lengths that Chen will go to be successful and to help the team
“She is just so dedicated and she puts in 100% in everything that she does,” Borland said. “Even when she’s not feeling well, she’s out there giving it all that she has. She always wants to win and she will do whatever we need her to do. She is just an awesome player to have on your team.
“And when other players see how dedicated she is, it just makes them want to player even harder.”
With Chen leading the way, the third-seeded Spartans enjoyed an impressive postseason run. The Spartans opened the playoffs with a bye. In their opener, they were able to notch a 60-29 second-round victory against El Monte in which Chen tallied 20 points.
La Cañada continued to roll in the quarterfinals, disposing of Santa Margarita, 53-47. However, the team saw its season come to an end with a 50-40 defeat against Santa Maria St. Joseph in the semifinals. Chen had 16 points in the loss.
Hill realizes the Spartans would not have been able to enjoy the deep postseason run if it weren’t for the play of Chen.
“What’s been phenomenal about watching her as a player is seeing how much her defense has improved and that has become the catalyst for much of her offense,” Hill said. “As a point guard, she runs our offense and although she put up great numbers this season, if she wasn’t suffering from an injury she would have had even more impressive numbers.”
Despite being tabbed her team’s go-to player, Chen said she doesn’t feel any pressure to come through for the Spartans on the floor.
“Honestly, my team gives me so much confidence and they give me so much support, I know that they are there for me,” she said. “This isn’t an individual sport, and you really need a team to be successful. I don’t feel like I’m out there all alone, and that takes the pressure off.”
Although she is in the midst of what is supposed to be her offseason, in typical Chen fashion, don’t look for the junior to take much time off. In fact, Chen said she is already looking toward next season and she can’t wait for her senior season to begin.
“Oh yeah, I can’t wait,” she said. “But there are definitely some things I want to work on.”
There is just no rest for Courtney Chen.