Devin Coppinger relishes being an underdog.
The Nooksack Valley High School senior has become one of the most highly touted girls basketball prospects in Whatcom County history — inserting herself onto a national stage from the small town of Everson.
Coppinger, a 5-foot-10 guard, is ranked by ESPN as the No. 37 overall recruit in the nation for the Class of 2024, and she led the Pioneers to their first-ever state championship a season ago.
Just a few months removed from committing to the University of Washington, Coppinger is preparing for her final season in a Nooksack Valley uniform. It was the end of a long recruiting road that had her fielding offers from more than 20 NCAA Division I programs.
“She’s a coach’s dream,” said Nooksack Valley head coach Shane Wichers. “She knows what she’s capable of doing, understands the game, but she doesn’t flaunt it. She doesn’t see herself as better than anybody else.”
As a child, Coppinger didn’t have a local girls basketball icon to look up to or aspire to be. Nooksack Valley girls basketball had made it past the state quarterfinals just once (2015–16) in her lifetime before she reached high school.
“I remember when I was little, the stands would just be empty,” Coppinger said. “No one was there.”
Coppinger’s motivation was intrinsic. Her afternoons and evenings in elementary school were spent shooting on the hoop outside her home and laying out cones on the blacktop for solo drills.
It was that solace she found in running drills — mastering one skill before moving on to the next — that stuck with her. That is the backbone of her basketball mindset.
“I’ve never been one to settle for, ‘Oh, I can do this move, and I’ve made that shot before.’ I want to perfect it,” Coppinger said. “I would repeat that drill over and over and over again, till I’m going to make it nine times out of ten.”
Coppinger’s father, Mike, coached her for much of her youth. Going into seventh grade, she began playing club basketball with Tree of Hope — the only girls Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) affiliate in Washington state.
That’s when Mo Hines, a former assistant coach with Washington State University women’s basketball, took over and helped Coppinger realize her potential.
Despite the growth, Coppinger said playing for the club was “one of the hardest things” she’s ever done. But it was also one of the best, she said. It’s what gave her a platform to be seen by coaches nationwide.
Twice a week, Coppinger would drive to Seattle after school, have a three-and-a-half-hour practice, get home around midnight, complete her homework, go to sleep, wake up, go to school and repeat.
The grueling schedule didn’t even include the tournaments they would play in.
“I really pushed her. When I see that there’s talent to be a high-level kid, I push,” Hines said. “I don’t let them settle.”
Coppinger said she didn’t settle.
She competed on Hines’ 17-and-under-team as a freshman in high school and was also starting on the Nooksack Valley girls team during the COVID-shortened year.
The next season, Coppinger and her Nooksack Valley teammates fell to in-county rival Lynden Christian in the 1A state championship — the program’s first appearance in a title game since the 1984–85 season.
One of Coppinger’s Tree of Hope teammates and good friends, Libby Stump, sank the game-winning shot in overtime for LC in a 57-56 loss for Nooksack Valley. Stump is now a sophomore on the University of Montana women’s team.
“That was brutal. For weeks … it ate me up,” Coppinger said. “Going to school the following Monday, I was like, ‘Don’t talk to me. This is not OK.’”
Coppinger and her Pioneers teammates prepared all offseason to avoid a repeat of that feeling. That work made the next season’s result expected, she said.
“They had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder being that close and not getting it,” Wichers added. “That was something that they wanted.”
Inspiring the next generation
Nooksack Valley’s final game of the 2022–23 season ended in smiles, laughter and hoisting a gold ball for the first time in the program’s history on March 4.
The Pioneers beat LC in a title game rematch, 43-36, led by 20 points, six rebounds and four steals from Coppinger.
“I felt like we had worked for it and that’s what was supposed to happen that year,” she said. “So, for me, it was — not in a cocky way — expected.”
For Coppinger, then a junior, it was a legacy fulfilled. She wants the championship victory to inspire the next generation of Nooksack Valley players.
The stands are no longer empty for Pioneers home games, and it can be hard to even get in the door — especially when they play LC in the regular season.
Four months after completing that storybook high school season, Coppinger won the 2023 North Tartan Meltdown AAU National Championship with her Tree of Hope teammates, concluding her club basketball career.
A month later, on Aug. 21, Coppinger announced her commitment to the University of Washington women’s basketball program.
“Devin’s gonna be a star right away, without a doubt,” Hines said. “I loved that she chose to stay home and play at Washington.”
Coppinger said her recruiting path heated up during that junior year, title-winning season, which added to her day-to-day stress. She is confident in her decision and excited to follow in the footsteps of her childhood idol: Kelsey Plum.
“I’m so blessed and so thankful to just know that the next step of my life is all taken care of,” Coppinger said. “I know whatever happens at Washington will be a challenge — it’s the next step.”
For now, however, Coppinger is focused on what’s right in front of her: one more season with her high school teammates and bringing back-to-back state titles to Nooksack Valley.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of games to go through before we’re there, but we definitely, it’s in the back of our mind,” Coppinger said. “We know both the feeling of losing and winning [championships], so we know what it takes.”