At a Portland State University basketball camp, Rainier’s Desirae Hansen was tasked with a dribbling drill she struggled to complete.
Having to close her eyes and work through various moves, Hansen found one of the few things she couldn’t do on a basketball court.
“I just started laughing,” Hansen said. “Sometimes you just have to laugh. A smile saves a soul, and I just had to laugh through it.”
The Vikings coaches liked the response to failure so much — not to mention the elite talent she brought to the hardwood — they offered her a spot on the team. She committed to Portland State before her final high school season began.
Her passion for the game, intense desire to improve and, of course, that “shake it off” attitude pushed her to new heights. The Columbians followed suit, finishing with a fifth-place trophy and first state hardware in Hansen’s otherwise decorated career.
Hansen tallied 20.1 points per game, earned Lewis and Clark League MVP for the second straight season and helped Rainier to a 22-7 finish. She finished second in program history with 1,748 career points, added 1,155 rebounds, 311 blocks, 439 steals and 454 assists.
She adds one more accolade to the list now, as she has been named TDN’s 2017-18 All-Area Player of the Year. Ilwaco’s Ned Bittner has been selected as Coach of the Year.
“She came in as a freshman and was this spindly little thing,” Rainier coach Doug Knox said. “She’s just grown and developed. She’s put a lot of time into it. That’s obvious.
“She’s been huge for our program and makes everyone around her better.”
A consummate teammate, Hansen is quick to deflect praise and eager, sometimes to a fault, to see her peers succeed.
In her career, the Columbians went 76-36 (.679) and qualified for the state tournament four times.
“I don’t know if I could do her justice saying things about her,” Knox said. “She realized she was going to need to develop kids and make them better. That’s the neat thing about her. We talk a lot about senior leaders and the impact they have. … This senior group has been really good to us. It’s definitely going to be a different atmosphere without her.”
The asset on the court that Knox will miss most is the skill she’s struggled developing the most. Ballhandling didn’t always come natural to the now 5-foot-11 player. Though she started as a guard, Hansen has played all five positions.
It’s that level head, though, that allows her to succeed at the point.
“She’s just good at keeping everybody in control,” Knox said. “I had a couple coaches come up after games and say ‘She’s just so calm with the ball.’ That’s pretty apparent. She doesn’t panic too much.”
And while she always had a passion for the sport, she took a different mindset to things after her sophomore season.
“I took things more seriously,” she said. “Instead of playing because I love the playing the game, it was like I need to do this, this and this so I can play the game I love longer and at a higher competitive collegiate level.”
The results speak for themselves.
Additional reporting by Jason Leskiw.