Bill Long 3/12/05
The 4A Oregon Boys High School Basketball Championship
Onychophagists were devouring not simply their nails but their fingers, too. Trichotillomaniacs were pulling out tufts of hair, rather than single strands. The event? The Oregon 4A boys basketball championship, pitting perennial power Jesuit against Lake Oswego. Jesuit won, with a stirring 25-point 4th quarter (to LO's 14) and pulled out an unlikely 57-53 victory. Though the victory went to the Crusaders, the story really was the way that Lake Oswego 6-9 sophomore post Kevin Love nearly won the state championship single-handedly for the Lakers. Love has the potential of becoming the single most dominant schoolboy basketball player in Oregon history since 7'3" Swede Halbrook at Lincoln HS in Portland in the late 1940s and early 1950s. But, before commenting on his play tonight, a few observations about Oregon prep basketball are appropriate.
The Efflorescence of Oregon Schoolboy Basketball
Oregon has always had the reputation of putting out a national-class high school basketball player about once every two or three years. When I say "national-class," I mean someone who goes on to notable achievement in D-1 college ball and then perhaps a career in the NBA. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, Oregon was blessed with the best crop of high school players in its history. In the space of four years one had Michael Dunleavy Jr, who led Jesuit to the 1999 title (and now plays with the Golden State Warriors), Brian Jackson, a 2A player who became a steady performer at Oregon State, Luke Jackson, who became a 1st team All-American selection at Oregon and has been drafted by the Indiana Pacers, Blake Stepp, who led Gonzaga to some excellent seasons, Salim Stoudamire, who has recently been shooting the lights out in Arizona, Aaron Miles, the key to Kansas University's offense and "lesser" D-1 players in Chris Rodgers of Arizona, Michael Lee of Kansas, David Lucas and Chris Stephens of Oregon State and Thomas Gardner of Missouri. Indeed, I think at one time in 2003 I counted 7 Oregon athletes who were significant contributors either to top 20 D-1 college basketball programs or to Oregon or Oregon State. No state comparable to its size could compare with Oregon's record in basketball.* But after
[*A similar observation can be made regarding Oregon track in the period slightly after this--2003-2004. In these two years Oregon schoolboy athletes were named national track athletes of the year--Tommy Skipper of Sandy for his 18'3" pole vault, a national record, and Galen Huff of Central Catholic, for setting the national schoolboy record for the 5,000 meter run.]
2001 the quality fell off fairly dramatically. 2002 Player of the Year Marshall Hartman of Westview only played intermittently for Portland State University before giving up on the game. 2003 Player of the Year, Maarty Leunen of Redmond, just finished his freshman year at the U of O, with a middling, but certainly not distinguished season, and 2004 Player of the Year Jeremiah Dominguez of South Salem saw only limited action this year playing for the University of Portland Pilots.
Returning to Today
Thus, I thought that Oregon schoolboy basketball had fallen into a long eclipse after the stellar years. Until this week. Not only will one of the Tarver brothers (Josh) attend OSU, and probably see signficant playing time there, but the two outstanding sophomores, Love and Kyle Singler of South Medford, along with the promising Junior Phil Nelson from McNary in Keizer, show that Oregon's future is really quite strong for the next few years, and that Oregon will return to giving the D-1 ranks some noteworthy players in the near future.
But let's return to the game tonight. Jesuit v. Lake Oswego. Jesuit is the team that everyone loves to hate in Oregon; except, of course, if you have the money to send your kids to Jesuit. The reason for hating Jesuit stems primarily from the fact that it is a "non-geographical" school--i.e., it draws its students from throughout the Portland area, and students have even been known to move their families to the Beaverton area in order to attend Jesuit. Thus, it is affectionately known as "Jesuit U" among many HS athletes. The problem is the same in the smaller leagues, but the prevalence of so many fundamentalist Protestant Christian schools in the 1As and 2As in the state makes issue not as prevalent as it is with Jesuit in the 4A.
And, beginning late in the fateful year of 2000, Jesuit looked like it was about ready to establish a basketball dynasty in the state. I need to explain what I mean by that, and actually get to tonight's game--so please go to the next essay.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long