McLendon served as a coach in the 2019 Whatcom County Senior Classic. (Courtesy photo/KenMcLendon)

He has trained some of those returning and sees whole team’s potential 

DEMING ­— Plenty of changes can be expected in the upcoming basketball season in the Northwest Conference. It goes without saying there will be regulations and safety precautions in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but there will also be a new face on the sidelines for the Mount Baker girls basketball team.

Taking the place of Kim Stensgar will be Ken McLendon, co-owner of McLendon Athletics, a training program in Lynden.

McLendon will be taking over a team that posted a 12-12 record last season, falling just short of the state tournament. 

The Mounties are returning nearly their entire starting lineup, having lost only one senior to graduation. 

McLendon said he’s already coached a couple of girls on the team through his training business and he knows there’s talent on the roster. He’s excited to see how the team can develop and compete this next season.  

“They lost one senior, so just another year under those players’ belts,” he said of the prospects. “There’s a number of really talented players who I think haven’t even scratched the surface of their potential. I’m excited about helping them realize their potential.”

When his family moved back to Whatcom County eight years ago, McLendon first walked into the Mount Baker  Fieldhouse in Deming when his wife, Hanna, was coaching the JV squad at Ferndale. 

“I went to one of her games there and the first thing I said was, ‘Wow, I’d love for this to be my home gym one day,’” McLendon said. “It was always something I had my eye on.”

Having watched a couple of Mount Baker’s games last season, McLendon believes the team could have made it to state, but he knows there’s room for improvement. 

With two defending state champions in one conference in Lynden and Lynden Christian, McLendon knows the level of competition in the Northwest Conference is no joke. He said that brings an exciting challenge for this 2020-21 Mounties squad. 

“Nobody expects much from you from an underdog position, so I think we can take some teams by surprise,” McLendon said. “I’m not expecting any miracles, but that level of competition always breeds two things — it’ll break you or it’ll make you. I’m hoping we have the personnel that makes us better.”

Having just been hired last week, McLendon is still getting the basics worked out in putting together a coaching staff, but once that gets squared away he’s hoping to get some time in the gym with the girls team in November. 

Until then, McLendon will be planning for the season. 

“I’ve just been going through some tape I can find of the girls and getting a sense of who is who and what we have,” McLendon said. “[And] how I’m going to instill our philosophy and things of that nature.”