Scheels Athlete of the Week: Mullinnix a Constant in West Branch Lineup
Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – Haley Mullinnix has come a long way over the last four years.
How much improvement has the West Branch senior point guard made since her freshman season?
Look no further than last Friday’s win over Northeast for a perfect insight into the evolution of Mullinnix as a player.
It wasn’t her game-high 17 points or her six rebounds that demonstrated how much growth Mullinnix had made
It was her reaction to the Bears’ 45-34 win that said everything about how far Mullinnix had come.
Moments after helping West Branch to its second straight win following the holiday break, Mullinnix wasn’t celebrating instead she was lamenting some defensive breakdowns and eager to get back to work.
“I think we are still improving,” Mullinnix said after the win. “We had some defensive mistakes, we need to get better there but if we can correct a few things I think we can get pretty far this season.”
Considering Mullinnix wondered often if it would be her defense that would keep her off the court as a freshman her constant attention to the matter as a senior demonstrates how hard she has worked and how far she has come.
“I’m as proud of that kid as anybody else I’ve coached,” West Branch coach Jarod Tylee said. “I’ve had her for four years and I wish I could have her for five, six, seven years.”
A four-year starter, Mullinnix is in the middle of a breakthrough season.
She is averaging a career-high 14.3 points per game, more than five points better than her previous career-best of 9.1 last year.
As a freshman she questioned if her struggles on defense would let her break the starting lineup.
A basketball-first athlete who also plays golf, Mullinnix had watched more than enough West Branch basketball to know that Tylee stressed hard-nosed man-to-man defense.
“I know over the four years I’ve really had to work on defense, coming in as a freshman I was not good on defense,” Mullinnix said. “I thought before my first game maybe I would start and when didn’t start and I knew it was because of my defense. After that I really focused on my defense and I eventually got in there.”
Rather than pout Mullinnix worked harder.
She worked her way into the starting lineup as a freshman and hasn’t left.
This season she has worked her way into one of the top players in the River Valley Conference.
Mullinnix already has 40 steals this season, two away from matching her career-high of 42 from last year.
“She has made tremendous improvement with her all-around game but feel like she has gotten better defensive especially,” Tylee said. “She’s gotten tougher, I think physically and mentally she has gotten tougher. She doesn’t say a whole lot and she isn’t the biggest girl out there but she finds ways to score, she finds ways to get her teammates the ball and she finds ways to be disruptive on defense.”
As the season has gone on Mullinnix has gotten better.
She had 16 points five assists and four steals in a 58-37 win over Durant in the first game back from break.
The 5-foot-4 senior had 17 points, six rebounds and four steals in the win over Northeast.
“She just has a great ability to attack and just find a way to get up a shot,” West Branch junior Tatum Koenig said. “She can pull up in the lane and make anything.”
Mullinnix has been at the heart of one of the most successful four-year runs in West Branch basketball history.
West Branch is 60-23 in her four-year career including a 29-8 mark the past two seasons.
Mullinnix would like to continue her career in college but isn’t sure where.
For now, Tylee is enjoying the final months of having his senior point guard.
“She wants to continue to play, she loves it, it’s what she lives for,” Tylee said. “She’s been a four-year start and she has got to feel like that kid to every other school that is never going to graduate.”