Portland suddenly is in vogue, the trendy hot spot among basketball coaches around the country. For a city and state more known for tree-huggers, tree-cutters and tennis shoes, it now has gained a budding reputation for fresh basketball talent.
Portland is looking like the new Seattle.
I think it all goes in cycles. Seattle comes out strong and may drop off for a year or two but then comes back strong. I think Portland is hitting that now,” UW assistant coach Paul Fortier said. We just had an influx of good kids this past year. And anytime you have one good class, there’s another one to follow.”
The Huskies landed one member of last year’s class, guard Terrence Ross, and nearly two, forward Terrence Jones. Jones’ cold feet on signing day eventually led to his defection from UW to Kentucky, where he is among the top freshman in the country.
Both played at Portland’s Jefferson High at one point. It’s a school that has produced 20 Division I players over the past dozen years. UW also has another Jefferson product, walkon guard Antoine Hosley.
Historically, Washington has not dipped extensively into the Portland/Oregon recruiting bases. Oregon players such as Thalo Green (1998-2001), Ben Coffee (2000-01) and Phil Nelson (2007) come to mind but none amounted to more than a role player.
But that’s changing with Ross, a sharp-shooting big guard who will increase his role as he matriculates. The Huskies have a commitment in next year’s class from 6-foot-2 point guard Andrew Andrews from Portland’s Benson High. His plan is to continue on to prep school and be part of the 2012 class.
Another possible member of that 2012 class is 6-5 guard Jordan Tebbutt out of Tualatin High in the Portland suburbs. The Huskies are looking hard at him as are others.
It has gotten out about Seattle. It’s on people’s radar, ‘oh, here comes another Seattle kid,’ ” Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar said. There was a time when it wasn’t on people’s radar, then we had Jason Terry and Michael Dickerson and Jamal Crawford. I think Portland is a little like that now. They have them, but people don’t recognize it yet.”
As the Huskies prepare for their annual trek this week to the hostile environments of Eugene and Corvallis, they go for the first time in a while with a Portland connection.
Romar has a lot to do with it,” said Pat Strickland, Jefferson’s coach for the past 12 years. He’s respected. He has his program known throughout the Northwest and the country. He is the centerpiece. He’s an outstanding guy who runs a good program. That’s a big reason why Romar has moved in and got some of these Oregon guys.”
But there are still plenty to go around. Portland area players currently fill big-time rosters throughout the country, six each from Portland’s Jefferson and Jesuit High. Some include: Cal’s Mark Sanders-Frison (Portland’s South Plains), USC’s Garrett Jackson (Beaverton’s Westview), Oregon’s Garrett Sims (Beaverton’s Sunset), Oregon State’s Lathen Wallace (Jefferson), St. Mary’s Stephen Holt (Jesuit) and Paul McCoy (Portland’s Grant), Pepperdine’s Mychel Thompson (Jesuit), Vanderbilt’s Brad Tinsley (Oregon City) and Gonzaga’s Mike Hart (Jesuit).
Then, expanding to the entire Beaver state, the rosters are enriched with players such as Kentucky’s Jones, Duke’s Kyle Singler (South Medford), a Player of the Year candidate, and his brother, Oregon’s E.J. Singler.
It’s believed that the state currently has 40 players on Division I rosters, 30 of whom grew up playing ball in the Portland area.
There’s more coming. Besides UW’s Andrews, Kyle Wiltjer (Jesuit) has signed with Kentucky for next season, Austin Kuemper (Beaverton’s Westview) is heading to Oregon, while David Carr (Central Catholic) and Jordan Akwenuke (Jesuit) will play for Portland.
I think it was like this before. We were just overlooked a lot of the time,” Hosley said. There are some very good basketball players in the Portland area. TRoss and TJones are good players. Andrews has gotten better. He’s really good now. Tebbutt has always been a big body and played above his level. We have some freshman in high school right now that I think are going to be really good.”
UW assistant coach Jim Shaw, who coached and lived in Oregon for years, oversees much of the state’s recruiting possibilities. He said it’s hard to pinpoint the reason why Portland is suddenly alive with talent.
I think everything runs in cycles,” he said. Portland is a good basketball city and the geography makes a lot of sense for us to recruit.”
Ross and Jones are the crest of the current talent wave. UW was fortunate enough to at least draw Ross. But as Strickland said, there’s a lot of good talent around here. It reminds me of the Seattle area as well. Seattle is bigger. We’re the smaller version.”
Indeed, there are some distinct similarities between the two cities, particularly in their wave actions.
Seattle and the state has had legendary players. Without going back to the two-hand set shot, there were ‘old school’ players such as Bob Houbregs, Steve Hawes and James Edwards and John Stockton.
Oregon has had its legends with Charlie Sitton, Snapper Jones, Danny Ainge, A.C. Green and Mel Counts.
Then after some lean years, both states began producing again. In Seattle/Washington, the next wave included Doug Christie, Michael Dickerson, Jamal Crawford and Jason Terry. In Oregon, it was Fred Jones, Mike Doleac, Terrell Brandon, Mike Dunleavy and the Stoudamires, Damon and Salim.
Over the past decade or so, talented players, mostly from Seattle, have been churning out such as Doug Wrenn, Rodney Stuckey, Terrence Williams, Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, Martell Webster, Avery Bradley, Spencer Hawes, Jon Brockman, Peyton Siva, Abdul Gaddy, Isaiah Thomas, Reggie Moore, Josh Smith and possibly emerging star, Garfield High’s Tony Wroten, Jr.
Oregon has countered with Brandan Brooks, Michael Lee, Thomas Gartner, Matt Santangelo, Aaron Miles, Luke Jackson and Kevin Love.
It’s funny, we’ve been playing each other (states players) for so long, and we’re still playing against each other today,” Ross said. I’ve been playing against (UCLA’s) Josh Smith since sixth, seventh grade and I’m still playing against him today.”
Roy, the Seattle Garfield product who now ironically plays for Portland, is considered the poster child for Seattle/Washington basketball, the guy who has accomplished the most. For Portland, it’s probably Kevin Love, the former Lake Oswego High star who went to UCLA and is now having a breakout season for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
We tried to set a trend for people coming up, people to look up to,” Ross said. We’re all working out together. It’s getting a bigger and bigger community. It’s definitely a lot like Seattle now.”
Strickland has been an integral part of the city’s development process. He has coached some of the more prominent AAU teams during the summers that have featured most of the quality players. During the summer, Jefferson’s gym also is the hub for players looking for challenging pickup games.
‘The state has been producing D-I players for a long time,” Strickland said. Now we’re reaching the next step where we’re putting them in the NBA. Back in the day it was Terrell Brandon and Damon Stoudamire, then Kevin Love. The next guy is Terrence Jones.”
Ready or not, Jones, averaging 17.9 points and 9.0 rebounds through 21 games, likely will declare for the NBA draft after the season, if only to get away from Coach John Calipari’s verbal abuse.
Our class put a lot of people on the map,” Hosley added. It is becoming a place to look out for.”