High School

High School

I had a lot of fun yesterday on Twitter chatting about the five best high school basketball players I’ve seen in person and I thought I’d continue that discussion today with some additional thoughts about players I’ve seen.

I confined this to Oregon players, not the ones I’ve seen in tournaments in various places. I think it’s more fun than to include the drop-ins from the Les Schwab Invitational or the Nike tournaments.

My best five from Oregon that I watched play in high school:

  • Richard Washington, Benson Tech: Perhaps Oregon’s first big-time, national recruit. John Wooden came to see him here and the Wizard of Westwood seldom went anywhere to watch recruits. Washington, an athletic 6-11 center, eventually became an MVP of the Final Four for the Bruins but left school early as a “hardship” case, which allowed him to enter the NBA draft after his junior season. High school teams were virtually helpless against him. 

  • Danny Ainge, North Eugene High: Tremendous competitor who won state titles as a junior and senior, losing just one game over that time. Not flashy but hit all the big shots and made his teammates better. A terrific quarterback and shortstop, too. I still maintain that he is the state’s best all-around athlete ever.

  • Terrell Brandon, Grant High: Extremely quick with a high basketball IQ, he was a scorer, a playmaker and a leader for an outstanding team. Was once featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as “the best point guard in the NBA” before injuries got the best of him.

  • Kevin Love, Lake Oswego: Dominant inside player with all the post moves who could hit jump shots from three-point range. Relentless rebounder and a winner. Smart player who was nationally known at a very young age and was highly recruited. Like Washington, he ended up at UCLA, even though his father, Stan, starred at Oregon.

  • Damon Stoudamire, Wilson High: One of the best prep players in the country as a senior, he was smart, quick and a terrific clutch shooter from deep. Like Ainge, of course, he would later become a Trail Blazer. Lived and breathed basketball and still does -- was West Coast Conference Coach of the Year this season at Pacific.

At this point, I want to mention five great players from Oregon I never saw play in high school, although I may have seen them in college or the pros. Although a lot of people have probably not heard of some of these players, you should have:

  • Mel Counts, Marshfield High School: Played a dozen years in the NBA after his career at Oregon State and was way ahead of his time. This was a seven-footer with range on his jumper who would have been right at home shooting threes in today’s game.

  • Swede Halbrook, Lincoln High: At 7-3 was in the late 1950s the tallest player ever to play college basketball at that time, while at OSU. Set just about every scoring record in Oregon prep history while at Lincoln. Played two seasons for Syracuse in the NBA.

  • Jim Jarvis, Roseburg High: Saw him at Oregon State but not in high school. A flashy guard known for behind-the-back passes before many players did those in games. Played two seasons in the ABA.

  • Steve Jones, Franklin High: Saw his brother, Nick, play at Marshall, but did not see Steve play in high school. I always teased him that Nick was better, although I had no idea if that was true. Steve, an ex-Duck, went on to become an ABA stalwart and later, a Trail Blazer.

  • Dave Gambee, Corvallis High: After his career at Oregon State in the 1950s, he went on to play from 1958 to 1970 in the NBA, averaging 10.6 points per game. A rugged forward, he backed down from nobody.

Apologies to all the great players I forgot. This was a tough task because we’ve been blessed to see some very, very good ones in this state.

Feel free to leave your own additions to this group in the comments or with your tweets.