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“Faith” and family define McLaughlin

Scott Herman, Staff Reporter - November 28, 2012

Junior Guard Mark McLaughlin lingers at the top of the key early in a blowout win over Walla Walla, probing the defense for any gaps. The ball whips around the perimeter in and out of the hands of point guard Jordan Starr and relaxes in Mark’s grasp. McLaughlin jukes a bit, setting up his favorite move, the hesitation three-pointer.

The ball rests in his left hand, below a tattoo of his niece on his wrist. On his right wrist, he has inked “Faith”.

The snap of his defenders’ ankles after his next move would have echoed in a emptier gym.

He sets back on his feet and plants a jumper. Visible on his right shoulder, his son’s name in black: ‘Jaylen.’ The sphere tickles the twine and unlocks a chorus of “oh’s and ah’s” from the Catpack. It’s only fitting that the same combination of his family, faith, and son enable McLaughlin’s success.

He’s bounced around from team to team like the ball’s he uses in his pregame warm-up. After attending prep school in New Hampshire he had signed to play for Nevada, Baylor, Seattle University, Tacoma Community College and the University of Washington before finally suiting up in Wildcat crimson and black.

Some of the moves were his choice and others were not, but he chalks it up to a battle with immaturity and sincerely owns up to his past mistakes.

“I don’t have any excuses for what I’ve done in the past,” said McLaughlin.

He hopes to shed to his reputation as “a player with baggage” here in Ellensburg. He feels like he’s found a home here, where his coaching staff and teammates have welcomed him with open arms.

“I stay out of trouble, it’s a small town, it’s a good fit,” McLaughlin said, “the coaches are real good, they help me out a lot, they’re real supportive on and off the court, they’re always there for me if I need someone to talk to.”

Although he’s seen his share of top-flight talent in the Division I ranks, McLaughlin mind is focused on the here and now. He talks about upcoming GNAC opponents with the same regard others would reserve for elite college teams like UCLA and Kansas.

So after trekking all over the nation through perennial Division I programs, it may seem odd that McLaughlin found a new home in Ellensburg. The answer, however, is simple: Jaylen, the tattooed name on his shoulder.

Just as it adorns the muscle that provides the power behind his textbook jump shot, his son is his powerful driving force that helps him succeed and provide for his young family.

“My son, I just want to be able to provide for him, make something out of basketball,” McLaughlin said.if it’s coaching or playing overseas, my son just keeps me going.”

Playing in the NBA is McLaughlin’s dream, and he has two years left here to clean up his image and hone his game in hopes of playing professionally. If not, he wants to absorb everything he learns and use his knowledge to coach. He helps coach an 8th grade select team in Seattle, the same one that he played for when he was younger, Rotary Select.

McLaughlin knows that he is a role model for the young kids that he coaches, something he credits with helping him mature.

“They really look up to me, so I’ve got to set an example for them that you can make it and hard work does pay off,” McLaughlin said. “I love giving back. Those kids are so much fun, I’ve been with them since 6th grade. To see them develop, it’s fun man, it reminds me of myself when I used to play.”

Coaching can wait. For now McLaughlin and his fellow ‘Cats want nothing more than a GNAC championship. He heaps praise on his teammates, crediting them all with the individual talent to score at will, and knows that the team’s defense will come together with an improvement in communication.

“Our team is a bunch of jokesters, I don’t know why we struggle with talking,” McLaughlin said with a laugh.

Another tattoo that encircles his left wrist are the letters “F.B.A.” which stands for “Family before all,” a name he goes by with friends. Now McLaughlin has a new home here in Ellensburg, and although his roots have been transplanted a few times over, the Wildcat faithful are proud to call him part of the family.

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