Former Inglemoor star Mark McLaughlin back on the map
Well-traveled basketball player Mark McLaughlin finally found a home at Tacoma Community College and might finally be headed for the success at a four-year school that was predicted for him years ago.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Mark McLaughlin knows his reputation is for always being on the move.
But as he sits in a locker room at Tacoma Community College after a recent game, he says he hasn't been trying to run and hide.
He gladly confronts head-on the labels that accompany his name, the image that continues to follow him.
"A lot of people that don't know me think I'm a head case," he says. "I just had to grow up."
And it's in Tacoma, playing for the perennial power TCC Titans, where McLaughlin might have finally done just that.
A 6-foot-6, 200-pound shooting guard from Inglemoor High, McLaughlin is the leading junior-college scorer in the nation at 28.4 points per game, guiding TCC to a 22-5 record and a berth in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges championship, Saturday through Tuesday in Kennewick.
Along the way, he has become one of the hottest recruits on the West Coast. Gonzaga coach Mark Few attended a TCC game the night before the Zags hosted Brigham Young last week. Washington assistant coach Jim Shaw raced from UW's win against Arizona on a recent Saturday to attend a TCC game. West Virginia coach Bob Huggins is expected to watch a TCC practice Wednesday, and Oregon State coaches were also expected to pay a visit this week.
McLaughlin, though, says he's not thinking yet about next season. Just next week and the NWAACC tournament.
It's a long way from the bright lights McLaughlin had always seemed destined to play under since being considered a top-100 national recruit at Inglemoor. But he says maybe it's playing in the relative isolation of the NWAACC that will finally enable him to get where he wants to go.
"Everybody matures at different levels," says TCC coach Carl Howell, noting McLaughlin will turn 22 in April. "I think he is getting to that point now where he is starting to mature."
The road McLaughlin has taken has been long and winding.
He committed to Washington State before his senior year at Inglemoor. Then, feeling he had made a rushed decision, McLaughlin decommitted a few months later. He eventually signed with Nevada, quitting the team at Inglemoor 12 games into his senior season to concentrate on academics. But when Nevada coach Mark Fox left for Georgia, McLaughlin got out of his letter of intent — saying Fox was why he had signed — and instead spent the 2008-09 season at a prep school in New Hampshire.
McLaughlin signed with Baylor and spent a month or so at the Waco, Texas, school in the fall of 2009 before leaving shortly before the season for what were announced as personal reasons. McLaughlin says he wanted to be closer to his son, Jaylen, who turns 3 in April.
He transferred to Seattle University and played in 17 games last season — missing part of the year for personal issues — averaging 7.2 points in 17.8 minutes, then decided to leave after the season.
"It just wasn't a good fit for me," he says. "(Seattle U) coach (Cameron) Dollar is a great guy. I like him a lot off the court. It just wasn't a good fit for me on the court."
Because McLaughlin is again a recruitable athlete, coaches at four-year schools cannot comment on McLaughlin, including those at Seattle U.
McLaughlin, who is a sophomore and will have two years of eligibility after this season, says he knows many might have written him off after the uninspiring season at Seattle U and yet another transfer.
"I just wasn't playing well," he says. "It's not coach Dollar's fault. It's not anybody's fault but my own. I just wasn't producing like I should have. I wasn't working as hard as I am now."
Almost immediately after leaving Seattle U, McLaughlin called Howell. When Howell had been an assistant coach at Eastern Washington, he was the first Division I coach to offer McLaughlin a scholarship when he was still at Inglemoor.
"Coming here just humbled me," McLaughlin says. "At the beginning of the year, nobody really had an interest in me and everybody thought I was just a problem and maybe I couldn't play anymore because people hadn't seen me play in, like, two years before I went to Seattle U and I kind of struggled there. So a lot of people doubted me. A lot of people I felt like kind of wrote me off, so it just pushed me to work hard every day."
Howell says McLaughlin has done everything he has asked. In fact, the loss of three players before the season caused TCC to lean on McLaughlin's scoring more than Howell anticipated. At Inglemoor, and on the high-school camp circuit, McLaughlin was known for his ability to score, especially perimeter shooting. At TCC, McLaughlin has also been working with Clint Parks, an AAU coach whose protégés include Demarquise Johnson, the highlight player in Washington State's 2012 signing class. McLaughlin says his ability to get to the basket has improved, and Howell cites his improved passing.
"He's a dominant, dominant player," Howell says of McLaughlin, who was recently named the NWAACC West Region MVP.
And he's again piqued the interest of all the coaches who were so enamored of his ability a few years ago.
Howell, though, said he and McLaughlin decided early to leave almost all recruiting issues until after the season.
And for now, McLaughlin says he has "no preference" in four-year schools and adds, "I'm just focused on making it through this season because it's been awhile since I've made it through a season.
"I'm sure a lot of coaches want to take their time to see if I can make it through the whole year because of my past. I just had to grow up because I realize this is my last chance and I've got to make the most of it."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com. On Twitter @bcondotta.