Moving to a new town when you are in high school is hard enough, having to figure out your place on the basketball team is even more difficult.
But for Tabitha and Maysun Wellsandt, they have plenty of practice working with teams.
The sisters, who moved to Kennewick from Coeur d’Alene in August and attend Kamiakin High, are part of a family with eight children, making fitting in easy.
“You have to work together,” Tabitha, a junior, said of her family. “It is a lot of teamwork and it is a lot of getting along.”
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For example, imagine four kids between 10 and 17, and four more under 4 all trying to use the same bathroom. The Wellsandts make it work at home, and with the girls basketball team.
“At first, I was a little scared because I had no idea what to expect,” Tabitha said. “I had no idea if they would be mean to us or not like us, but from the beginning it was incredible.
“I automatically loved them. It was exciting to come and play with girls like them.”
The Wellsandts moved to the Tri-Cities for their dad, Doug’s, job. He works in agriculture and the central location gave him the ability to be home at night more often.
The sisters — both 5-feet, 11-inches tall — play significant minutes for the No. 7-ranked Kamiakin basketball team, which is one of the favorites to win the Class 3A state title this season.
The family knew they were moving here at the end of last school year, so Doug contacted Kamiakin coach Lane Schumacher to help the kids get involved with the team’s summer program.
The Wellsandts drove down every Thursday in June to play in the summer league, which made the transition during the school year that much easier.
“I was really nervous to start playing with older girls,” said Maysun, a freshman, “but it was really nice and they helped introduce me to everything really well.”
While the pair were busy learning the Kamiakin offense and defensive schemes, they figured to slowly work their way into the playing rotation this winter But a host of injuries to Kamiakin’s returning starters put them into the spotlight immediately.
“Everyone was required to play minutes right away,” Schumacher said. “Those extra minutes didn’t hurt, that is for sure, to get them more experience playing in our system.”
Both players are extremely gifted. Tabitha is a post, who plays aggressively, diving to the floor for loose balls. Maysun, a wing, can handle the ball like a guard despite her size. She loves playing defense and trying to slow opposing players.
“They can pretty much do it all,” Kamiakin senior Holly Ellison said. “They can play all positions. They both drive and can shoot outside and shoot down low.
“It is a lot of help. What makes it convenient for the team is (opposing teams) have to focus on all of us, instead of just a few specific people.”
The Wellsandts, who also participate in track and field, come from an extremely athletic family, which is one reason they eased into their new roles for the mighty Braves.
Doug was a three-sport star at Ritzville High in the 1980s, played tight end for the Washington State football team from 1985-89 (including the 1988 Aloha Bowl team)and was drafted by the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals in the eighth round. He played a full season for the New York Jets and later was picked up by the Miami Dolphins, but did not play for them, before returning to the family farm in Ritzville.
Their aunt Darci, who recently was the volleyball coach at Hermiston, was also a star at Ritzville, played volleyball and basketball at WSU, and played professional basketball in Australia and Switzerland.
“They are a great family,” Schumacher said. “Great girls and a pleasure to coach. Sometimes it is probably tough to come in, but the girls bonded with our girls right away.
“It has been a hit from the summer on. You would never know they transferred in four months ago. It has been a great fit, a perfect fit with everybody.”
While the girls certainly don’t shy away from the fact that their dad played in the NFL, Tabitha pointed out the other reason they are well known — East Wellsandt Road.
“Mostly when people find out our last name, they ask us if the road is named after us,” she said about the overpass on I-90 near Ritzville.
For the record, it is.
The sisters, who are pranksters and like to keep things light, are a part of a giant family made up of four biological children and four adopted children.
Their mom, Heidi, always wanted a big family, and her and Doug decided the best way to do so was to adopt.
Younger sister, Kai is in seventh grade, while brother Tugg is in fourth grade. The family then adopted Mac and Kipp, who are 4 and 3, respectively, in domestic adoptions, before adding Tansy and Louie from the Republic of the Congo in Africa.
“We are our own team,” Doug said. “At one point, we had a basketball team, and now we have three subs.”
It all makes for lots of fights over whose turn it is to use the bathroom or whose turn it is to talk at dinner, but it has also given the girls the ability to fit in quickly, as they have showed with the Braves.
“They are all nice and welcoming and I really enjoyed that,” Maysun said of her new teammates. “I (am) excited to play with them.”
Craig Craker: 582-1509; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Craig_Craker