The Journey of Jolee


Macayla Cramer

Houle passes the ball in the Bucs Pride game against Spring Lake on Friday Dec. 20. “Obviously, I’m the coach, but she has played a lot of high level basketball and knows the game so well. I think she is a natural leader,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said.

Addy Wachter, Photo Editor

The level of focus on the game becomes maxed out as senior Jolee Houle tunes into the voices of her coach and teammates, zeroing in on where the ball will be next. The shouting from the crowd is lost from her mind. Focusing on what is happening on the court and trying to stay calm are her only two concerns at this point.

It may look like Houle is only working hard at a sport she plays, but she is in her happy place. A transfer from Zeeland West, Houle has grown extremely comfortable in her hardwood home.

Houle’s love for basketball began in the driveway with her older brother playing only for fun, later starting to join teams to play competitively when she was in first grade. Each year, Houle plays for the school and for her travel team, making basketball a year-round sport.

“For me, it’s almost kind of an escape,” Houle said. “Something I do for fun but also, next year it’ll provide me with a free education. It’s given me friends and relationships I think I will have for a long time. It has also taught me a lot of different life lessons. Basketball has done a lot for me.”

Every year, Houle tries to think about the things she exceeded at along with the skills she could work on. This evaluation has pursued her to play in college at Wayne State University.

“Each year you try to evaluate your weaknesses,” Houle said. “I was always just kind of a shooter but I think I’ve grown as a passer, defender, all aspects.”

It’s fun and easy to play with her because you know that she is going to see things and she is going to do things that other people can’t and won’t do.”

— Jalen Greene

Besides growing as a player, Houle had to make some life changing decisions allowing her to grow as a person.
“From stuff that happened at my old school, you learn from other coaches and how you want to be treated and how you don’t want to be,” Houle said. “As a leader, being one of the younger kids on the team and now being that older kid so now I know what not to do.”

Transferring from Zeeland West to Grand Haven in the middle of her sophomore year was rough on her and her teammates, but she stayed positive through the tough times because she knew it would benefit her in the end.

“It sucked to leave halfway through a season,” Houle said. “It was tough just sitting, watching games, but you kept having to think ‘alright I am doing this because in the long run it will pay off and the following year will be good.’ I just tried to stay positive with it.”

Teammates and coaches from Grand Haven tried to make the transfer easier for Houle. After head coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer heard they were gaining another player, she made sure Houle had friends to help her through it.

“Not going to lie, it was awkward meeting her at first but over the past two years she has become one of my closest friends,” said Alli Keyser. “We talk to each other every day, always checking in one each other.

Kowalczyk-Fulmer watches every girl in the basketball program, starting from the first year they start playing. If there is any chance of them being on her team, she checks in with those future players constantly, making sure they have what they need in order to get better at the sport they love to play.

“Coach K kind of took me in and she took care of me even though I wasn’t even on her team yet,” Houle said. “She made sure I was taken care of, I had friends, like Jalen, she set me up with them and made sure I had people to eat lunch with.”

After getting used to Grand Haven and the culture of the basketball program during her first year, Houle began to break out of her shell her second year on the team becoming more and more of a leader. Now that some of the players from last year are onto bigger and better things at college, Houle mimicked their leadership when they left.

“Now for me, I have to step up and take the place of that because I have to fill those shoes,” Houle said. “This year it is a young team so it’s a lot of teaching. I am having to lead even more than usual because of how young they are.”

Houle’s love for this sport and the players is influenced by her actions on the court and how she guides her teammates.

“She is a leader on the court being in the point guard position this year,” senior Jalen Greene said. “It’s fun and easy to play with her because you know that she is going to see things and she is going to do things that other people can’t and won’t do.”

The basketball IQ that Houle has allows for her to make not only herself look good, but also the players around her. This only enhances Houle’s ability to lead her teammates to success.

“I think sometimes a point guard is almost an extension of your coaching staff because she’s out there on the court she can coach the younger kids,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “Obviously, I’m the coach, but she has played a lot of high level basketball and knows the game so well. I think she is a natural leader.”