Being different and sticking out isn’t exactly the common method of operation for most high school girls — or any high school kid, for that matter.
The Page sisters aren’t like most high school kids, though.
They’ve helped lead the Wamego High girls’ basketball team to an 18-1 record and an undefeated tally in the North Central Kansas League. The Red Raiders, who host Marysville Tuesday night at 6, are also the No. 2 team in Class 4A.
Kaylee — a 6-foot-2 junior — is averaging 21.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.2 steals and 4.7 blocks per game this season.
Her younger sister Lanie — who also stands 6-2 — is putting up big numbers as a sophomore. She currently averages 15.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 2.9 blocks a game.
Both are strong, incredibly athletic and bring college scouts from far and wide to their games.
While scouts and spectators alike can easily understand how special these two sisters are on the basketball court, the attention they receive isn’t always positive — especially from the opposing teams’ fans.
“She’s just too perfect to call a foul on, eh ref!?” shouts a disgruntled parent from the visitor’s seats on any given night the Red Raiders are in action.
Or, “She just can’t do anything wrong, can she!” another sarcastic fan bellows.
Some accuse the Page sisters — especially Kaylee — of showboating.
It all could be considered jealousy, or perhaps just a being a sore loser.
Call it whatever you want, but the fact remains that these two high school girls get a lot of attention, and that with the good, also comes the bad when the duo carves up opposing teams just about every time they take the floor.
“Root for your team, that’s great,” their father Jim and Wamego head coach said earlier this season after his team squashed Marysville on the road 63-28. “But when you root against high school kids, it’s really sad.
“(Kaylee’s) even had a couple people come up to her after games and say stuff to her. She was asked one day if she was in a particular drama class and she said, ‘Yes, I’m taking one this year,’ and they told her, ‘Yeah, we can tell because you’re a drama-queen out there.”
At first, this bothered Kaylee.
She’s often all smiles, incredibly respectful and gives her full attention to others. She’s the first person to praise her teammates. Most importantly, Kaylee isn’t the type to bring negative feelings or thoughts to others.
So, when that negative attention first came her way as a freshman — when all she was doing was playing basketball at an amazingly high level — it was tough to deal with.
“I used to take it personally,” said Kaylee, who scored 38 points in a blowout win over Valley Heights earlier this season. “I used to take to heart, that they were really trying to hurt my feelings. But, I feel like this year, I know they’re not doing it just to hurt my feelings. I know it’s a during-the-game kind of thing. I let (the comments) bounce off me a little better.
“I don’t let it hurt my feelings now.”
Her sister Lanie has seen the reaction her sister can get from opposing fans all her life.
“I was just hoping she’d stay calm and wouldn’t go around and foul and everything,” Lanie said. “She’s got a lot better at staying calm and keeping the team calm. She’s really been a great leader.”
Lanie knows all about drawing the ire of opposing fans herself, though. Her father said she’s been able to develop thicker skin a little bit quicker than Kaylee did.
“It’s so funny because they are so different in that regard,” Jim said. “Lanie is really good about just blowing it off. She realizes she has a close family and really good friends. So, for her, whatever anybody else says really doesn’t matter.”
None of this is new for the Page sisters. The two have been basketball phenoms most of their young lives, but it’s come because of a lot of hard work too.
Some have suggested they try too hard to excel at a sport they love.
“When the girls were in junior high, they were called ‘try-hards,” Jim said. “People would say, ‘You guys are just try-hards. Why are you even doing that?’
“They have really sacrificed so much. They don’t go to sleepovers, they don’t go to parties. We don’t really go to movies that often and it’s not that everything is centered around basketball, but it’s a lot about academics, too. Those things are important.”
A lot of the work the Page sisters put in is done on their own.
“I have to kick them out of the gym,” Jim said. “One of the great things about Kaylee is that it could be 30 degrees out and it’s 9:30 at night and I hear this ‘thump-thump-thump’ outside and she’s taken the car around to our basketball court and has the car turned on and listening to the radio with the lights on and jersey gloves on while shooting baskets.
“Those are the things most people don’t understand. They love the game that much.”
A father’s struggle
Most fathers are very protective of their daughters and Jim Page is no different. Basketball is a family matter and not just for his daughters, as his son, James, also plays for the Wamego boys’ team.
As any head coach knows, his or her players are going to get heckled from time to time. That’s just the nature of sports — even if the targets are high school kids.
Needless to say, sometimes it’s been hard remaining a coach and not letting the fury of an angry father bust loose when Kaylee or Lanie is heckled.
“My wife Wendy is great and keeps me level-headed,” he said. “We really do try to keep everything in perspective. There are some people out there that aren’t really very nice. But, there are some great people, too.
“You have people like (senior starter) Rikki Alderson, who is great, and she’s been huge for our team. She’s also looked out for Kaylee in situations (where fans get to her). She’s stepped right in and took care of Kaylee, which is funny because Rikki is one of most non-confrontational people in the world. I think they went to the bathroom and cried together after it. But that’s always been a big thing for Kaylee. She’s always known she has friends like Rikki.”
Kaylee said most talks on the bus trips home after games have been strictly about the Xs and Os, rather than the pleasantries of opposing fans.
“We actually didn’t talk about that a lot,” she said in reflection. “We would analyze the game, but we wouldn’t talk about that as much. We did when it was directed right at us, but we usually just analyze the game and find ways to improve.”
A teammate’s testimony
Alderson said the outside perception of the Page sisters — that they showboat or are ball hogs — is just false.
“I think the world of them,” she said. “They are great teammates. We trust them with the ball. It’s us giving the ball to them. I’ve played with them since fifth grade. They are nice people. They are my sisters.”
Alderson has also noticed the lightning rod the Page sisters can be when it comes to the comments of opposing fans.
“It upsets me,” she said. “First off, I know them on a personal level and they would never say anything mean about somebody else. It’s disappointing to see people who don’t know them saying those mean things, but I think it kind of motivates them, and us, to prove people wrong.
“The reason why they get all those mean comments is because they are so good. I think they kind of take it as a compliment. I would.
“People are jealous of their talent, but they’ve worked for it.”