A quiet town of 3,140 people sitting in the valley of the Cascade Mountains, Cashmere is the home of Hailey Van Lith, one of the most electrifying point guards in the nation.
Once as under-the-radar as the idyllic Washington town, Van Lith is now an internet sensation, boasting more followers on Instagram than most WNBA and college basketball stars.
A fiery point guard with a healthy helping of spice to her game, the 5-9 lefty is a walking highlight. She’s been crossing up defenders almost from the moment she picked up a ball—literally breaking her older brother’s ankle in their first game of one-on-one.
“[My style of play] is a little saucy. I definitely do enjoy the flair, but I can be fundamental too, and I really love defense,” says the 17-year-old junior. “So it’s saucy, but it’s also serious. It’s business out there for me.”
Make no mistake: Van Lith is a killer on the court who plays with the intention of burying her opponent as quickly as possible. Capable of pulling up from three and creating contact at the bucket, Van Lith is impossible to hold in check. She’s a hawk on defense, playing the passing lanes for steals and creating fast breaks for her team.
“Transition is where you can really get saucy,” Van Lith says. “You can throw behind-the-back passes, you might do a wrap-around. It’s endless.”
Behind all the views and the likes, though, is a player who has put in the work to get to where she is today. When she was in fourth grade, Van Lith’s dad rented out the elementary school gym across the street from their home. Each night, they would run drills for two hours.
“Sometimes you don’t always like putting in the work, but the results are really fun. And that’s what kept me going and kept me hungry was the success,” Van Lith says. “We do still do that, we do it every night. It’s just increased in intensity.”
Now, the late-night training session is often Van Lith’s third (or more) for the day. When not in the gym, she’s serious about recovery. She makes good use of an air compression leg massager at home and is an ice bath disciple.
Despite all the hard work, Van Lith felt like she wasn’t getting the same attention as some of her peers. To stay focused, she would often recall the Bible passage, 1 Peter 5:6, which reads, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
“Until this year, I was under the radar. I wasn’t really popular. I was ranked fairly high, but I wasn’t known across the nation like I am now,” Van Lith says. “That [passage] just spoke to me because I wasn’t getting this attention, and I wasn’t being seen as equal to these other girls just because I wasn’t out there yet.”
But now that the cameras are pointed in her direction, the way she approaches the game hasn’t changed. Of course, the highlight plays are nice, but she hasn’t lost sight of ultimate goal: Getting buckets.
“The best advice I ever got was: Put the round thing in the round thing. For basketball, that’s all I try to do. I don’t care how it happens, all I’m trying to do is put the round thing in the round thing.”
Van Lith has dreams of becoming a first-round pick and creating a legacy in the WNBA. But right now, she has sights set on something larger.
“My generation of [hoopers] is a little more saucy. We’re evolving to the boys—we want to score and we want all those flashy plays,” she says. “We’re elevating it. And we’re making them give us attention.
“And I’m going to do my best to make girls basketball look good and play to the best of my ability.”
Ryne Nelson is a Senior Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @slaman10.
Photos and video by James Corbett