At this week’s Northwest A divisional tournament in Kalispell, Libby’s boys and girls teams, led by standout brother-sister duo Jim and Jackie Mee, will be looking to play spoiler. Ranked fifth and second respectively in the conference, the Loggers have proved themselves capable with close games and a few upsets this season, but as expected, those won’t mean much to the siblings or their teams without a state tournament berth.
Individually, the Mees have developed a versatile inside-outside game – a headache for opposing defenses. Jim, a 6-foot-4 senior, leads the conference in 3-point shooting and free throw percentage and follows just behind Whitefish’s Colt Idol for most points per game, averaging about 22. The flexible guard also holds the top spot for rebounds.
“He’s tall, strong and shoots the ball from perimeter better than anyone I’ve ever coached. But he’s taught himself dribble penetration too and passes the ball very well,” Wally Winslow, Libby’s boys varsity coach, said. “He’s not one dimensional, and that makes it very hard to stop him.”
Jackie, a 6-foot post player, is as comfortable stepping out to take a 3-point shot as she is banging around on the block. Averaging 18.5 points a game, she leads the conference in scoring as a sophomore.
Both are talented in other sports as well: Jim took third at the State A golf tournament this year and Jackie was an all-state volleyball player this season and a fourth-place finisher at last year’s state tennis tournament. With all the impressive numbers the duo are accumulating this year, their parents and coaches are equally proud of another statistic – both maintain 4.0 GPA’s.
Some of the brother and sister’s aptitude and passion for basketball are likely inherited. While it’s an oft-used sports cliché to say talented athlete’s “grew up in a gym,” in the case of Jim and Jackie, the expression becomes literal.
“Jim was coming to the gym right after he was born,” Barb Mee, Jim and Jackie’s mother, said. “He’d be in a playpen in the corner during practice.”
Barb and Jerry Mee, both former basketball players at the University of Montana Western in Dillon, are teachers, each with a coaching resume in Colorado first and then Montana. Jerry is currently Libby’s freshmen coach and a varsity assistant coach; Barb is Libby’s former assistant varsity girl’s coach.
As their son and daughter grew up, the two would often take them to practice, bringing a mini plastic hoop for them to play on the sidelines. The siblings remember sitting on the bench as middle-schoolers and getting to jump in with the older players during practice.
But, their coaches are quick to note that whatever talent was incubated by their upbringing in a basketball-loving family was developed by the extra hours the siblings chose to spend in the gym.
Since Jim, Jackie and Jerry all have separate practice times someone from the Mee family is almost always in the gym from after school until around 9:30 p.m. But, that’s not enough. Most nights the trio reconvenes at the gym after the last practice to get in an extra hour of shooting.
It’s one of the few times the brother and sister admit they get competitive with one another. “Sometimes when we shoot with my dad at night and Jim will miss more shots than I do, I’ll say that’s why I scored 35 in a game this year and your best was only 32,” Jackie said.
Her bravado and teasing stops there though. When asked who would win in a one-on-one match up, she says they rarely bother playing: “We don’t play much, because I know he’d kill me.”
Their coaches express excitement at what the next few years will hold for the two as Jim, who plans to continue his basketball career in college, moves on and Jackie continues to develop. But, those thoughts are largely out of mind for the talented duo as they enter this weekend sharing a simple focus: “Going to state.”
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