High School

EJ Holland wins 2019 Prep Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year

EJ Holland wins 2019 Prep Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year

EJ Holland

Ashland High School

Class of 2020

Holland is not only an elite cross country runner (both regionally and nationally), but also unsurprisingly excels as a long distance runner in track and field as well. This past year, he was dominant, winning every prep cross country race he was apart of, including the 5A state meet. Holland showcased his chops on the national scale too, placing 16th at the Nike Cross Nationals, which took place at local Glendoveer Golf Course.

Chris Miller vacates Franklin post, returns as West Linn head FB coach

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Getty Images

Chris Miller vacates Franklin post, returns as West Linn head FB coach

The head coaching job of the West Linn football team has been on-again, off-again since the 2019 season ended. 

After six seasons at the helm, including a state championship in 2016, Chris Miller stepped down at the end of last season for a job with the XFL. 

With Miller gone, West Linn started a comprehensive search for the person to take the coaching seat. 

West Linn found their man in former Oregon Ducks wide receiver Keanon Lowe. However, before Lowe ever held a fall practice or coached a game, he stepped down to take a job at UCLA with his former head coach Chip Kelly. 

With the job once again open, West Linn turned to a familiar face: Chris Miller.

NBC Sports Northwest learned on Wednesday that Miller interviewed and accepted the offer to return to his old job.

Parents were sent an email notifying them of the hire at 7pm Wednesday night.

When Miller stepped down last season it was with good cause. The newly re-imagined XFL was set to begin play in February of 2020, and the Houston Roughnecks tabbed Miller to be the team's offensive coordinator under head coach June Jones.

Miller and the Roughnecks got off to a hot start holding a 5-0 record after five-games, making them the only undefeated team in the league. Thanks to Miller's offense, Houston had the best offense in the XFL, leading the league with 21 touchdowns. 

However, right as things were starting to look up, the coronavirus struck. 

Due to the pandemic, the XFL would end up canceling the 2020 season with the league entirely suspending all operations on April 10th.

With no XFL to coach, Miller went back to high school, this time at Portland's Franklin High School.

The hire was announced on May 14th, with Miller saying at the time, "I chose Franklin so my son Dillon would be my Asst. Head Coach, and because the school is gorgeous, has great facilities, and it’ll be a fun challenge."

In the end, West Linn presented an offer Miller couldn't refuse. 

West Linn is giving Miller and his son the same opportunity: Dillon will serve as OC and QB Coach.

Franklin has gone a combined 2-16 over the past two seasons, and with a coach of Miller's pedigree, they hoped to turn that around.

But just like Lowe at his old/new job, Miller left before ever coaching a fall practice at Franklin. 

Now Miller heads back to West Linn in hopes of recreating the magic he brought the Lions in 2016.

Franklin High School taps Chris Miller as head football coach

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XFL

Franklin High School taps Chris Miller as head football coach

Franklin High School has named a new football coach and he’s bringing a big resume and record with him.

NBC Sports Northwest has learned that Chris Miller, who was quarterback for the Oregon Ducks from 1983-86 and played 10 seasons in the NFL, has accepted the job as head football coach at the southeast Portland school.

Chris Miller was reached Thursday night and confirmed the news.

Miller is fresh off a stint as offensive coordinator for the Houston Roughnecks in the now-defunct XFL.

He coached at South Eugene High School and more recently spent six seasons as head coach at West Linn, where he compiled a 58-15 record and won a 6A state championship in 2016. Miller also served as the QB coach on the Arizona Cardinals from 2009-2011.

Chris' son, Dillon, who has coached with him in the past, will join Franklin's staff as the assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. 

Miller was contacted by four high school programs, but ultimately decided to accept the job with Franklin.

Why?

"I chose Franklin so my son Dillon would be my Asst. Head Coach," Miller told NBCSNW Thursday. "And because the school is gorgeous, has great facilities, and it’ll be a fun challenge."

Miller succeeds Wes Warren as head football coach. Franklin finished 1-8 the last two seasons.

Miller, a former first round draft pick, was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. 

Damon Stoudamire, Kevin Love and... who else makes up your Oregon prep all-stars?

Damon Stoudamire, Kevin Love and... who else makes up your Oregon prep all-stars?

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.

 

OSAA State Championships to be played without fans in attendance

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OSAA

OSAA State Championships to be played without fans in attendance

UPDATE: The OSAA announced late Thursday morning that they would be canceling all state championships remaining for the Winter Sports

Below is the article from earlier this morning: 

The Oregon Schools Activities Association announced on Wednesday that the state championships would be played as scheduled but fans would not be allowed to attend, due to fears surrounding the coronavirus. 

Instead, only players, essential staff, and media will be allowed in the venues.

OSAA released the following statement:

With today’s rapidly changing situation, and in consultation with these groups, the OSAA has made the difficult decision to change its spectator policies for state championship events. Beginning Thursday morning, March 12, per guidance from the OHA and the Governor, only participating students and coaches, essential event staff personnel and media with OSAA-issued credentials will be allowed to attend OSAA State Championship events.

"This difficult decision has not been made lightly,” said Peter Weber, OSAA Executive Director. “Going into this week we knew the situation was rapidly evolving and as the circumstances and guidance have changed throughout today, our focus is on trying to honor the commitment students have made throughout the season by continuing the contests, albeit without spectators.”

However, the situation could change rapidly. 

Late Wednesday night the NBA announced that it would be suspending its season, and Major League Soccer followed suit on Thursday. Around the country, NCAA conferences have postponed their conference tournaments, and the state of the NCAA Tournament itself is in flux. 

With all these major leagues suspending play, there is a very real chance local high school sports leagues could do the same. 

We will keep you updated as any new updates come in. 

 

 

Damian Lillard's brother, Houston, named head football coach at Jefferson High School

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USA Today Images

Damian Lillard's brother, Houston, named head football coach at Jefferson High School

The Lillard brothers are taking over the sports world.

Houston Lillard, older brother of Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, has been named head football coach at Jefferson High School in Portland. Lillard began calling plays as offensive coordinator for the Democrats last season.  

Lillard’s football career began at San Lorenzo High School in Oakland California, where he was an All-League quarterback. Like his brother Dame, Houston also played basketball and averaged 16.0 points per game. 

Upon graduation, he went on to play football at Laney Community College. In 2005, he threw for 1,833 yards and 18 touchdowns and first-team All-League honors. Lillard led the Eagles to a Golden Gate conference championship, as well as a victory in the Capitol Shrine Bowl. 

Lillard transferred to Southeast Missouri in 2006, but his time with the Redhawks was plagued with injuries. He suffered a season-ending knee injury prior to fall drills in 2006 and then a rib injury in 2007 that caused him to miss a month. In his two seasons with the Redhawks, Lillard finished with 2,067 yards, 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. 

Lillard tried to revive his football playing career in 2014, when tried out as a quarterback for the Portland Thunder, the city’s arena football league. Things didn't work out, though, as former Oregon Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas was at the helm.

Now, Lillard is taking his years of football experience and knowledge of the game to Jefferson High School. Congratulations on the new gig, Houston!  

2020 Les Schwab Tires Bowl North & South team rosters announced

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NBCSNW

2020 Les Schwab Tires Bowl North & South team rosters announced

The 2019 high school football season might be over, but there's one more game these young athetes will have to show off their skills. 

In 1948, Oregon's first North vs. South All-Star football game, the Oregon Shrine Game, was played in Multnomah Stadium. Today, this annual tradition - now known as the Les Schwab Bowl presented by Express Employment Professionals - is playing its 73rd game (23rd as the Les Schwab Tires Bowl) and will be showcasing the best football talent in the state.

For the first time in Les Schwab Bowl's history, schools from SW Washington will be represented!  

Central Catholic head coach Steve Pyne will be the head coach of the North Team. Thurston's Justin Stark will head the South Team.

Through 72 Games the all-time series is even at 34-34 and 4 ties! 

The winner of this years game will take the series lead! 

Event proceeds from the Les Schwab Tires benefit the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association general scholarship fund and all of Oregon's 5A and 6A schools. 

The Les Schwab Bowl is one of the most well attended state wide All-Star Games in the country. 

The 2020 Les Schwab Bowl takes place on Saturday, June 20th at Hillsboro Stadium at 6:00pm. Here are the rosters for both the North and South teams:

North Team: Head Coach – Steve Pyne

Running Backs & Defensive Backs:

Reggie Akles – Reynolds                                         

Elijah Elliott – Central Catholic                                       

Casey Filkins – Lake Oswego

Chase Fletcher – West Linn                                    

Hunter Gilbert – Tigard                                                    

Kimo Hiu – Central Catholic 

Joe Hutson – Lake Oswego                                     

Miles Jackson – Central Catholic                                    

Jalen John – Lakeridge                          

Max Lenzy – Tigard     

Josh Nomie – Barlow

Kainoa Sayre – Tualatin      

Kade Wisher – Jesuit                                                                                                                                                                 

Offensive & Defensive Lineman:

Senan Brogan-Marshall – Grant                               

Shea Brooks – Jesuit                                                     

Cody Carlson – Lake Oswego

Hector Cazares – Beaverton                                       

Andrew Gross – Central Catholic                              

Brett Gydesen – Tualatin                                           

Alex Hall – Clackamas                  

Harrison Hess – Newberg                                          

Jared LaPointe – Newberg                                         

Jadon Morgan – Barlow               

Johnny Nomani – Tigard                  

TJ Price – Roosevelt                                                         

Jordan Reed – Central Catholic                                

Nick Severson – Sherwood              

Ryan Seth – West Linn                             

Tiger Shanks – Lake Oswego                                     

Peter Zaharie – Grant                                                                                       

Zach Zumwalt – Oregon City 

Linebackers:

Andy Alfieri – Jesuit                                                 

Nick Collins - Barlow                                                         

Logan Horton – Jesuit 

Parker McKenna – Beaverton                                

John Miller – Tualatin                                                       

Joe Nizich – Central Catholic 

Tre Singleton – Parkrose                                         

Mason Smith – Central Catholic                                     

Marko Vidackovic – Lincoln 

Payton Volk - Aloha

Receivers & Tight Ends:

Ethan Flynn – Central Catholic                              

Jay Jay Hudson – Parkrose                                 

Malique Sabb – Roosevelt                                     

Kalvin Souders – Central Catholic                                                                                                          

Chance Sparks – Century                                   

Silas Starr – Central Catholic                

Casey Tawa – West Linn                                         

Regan Wilson – Aloha

Quarterbacks:

Timothy Dennis Jr. – Aloha                                    

Cooper Justice – Lakeridge                                

Cade Knighton – Central Catholic

Kicker:    Kaedin Steindorf – Sherwood              

Assistant Coaches:  John Beck (Grant), Grant Hampton (Central Catholic), Kevin Hastin (Newberg) Terry Summerfield (Barlow), Bill Volk (Aloha)     

South Team: Head Coach – Justin Stark, Thurston

Running Backs & Defensive Backs:

Gavin Acrey – Crater                                                

Deaun Armstrong – West Salem                      

Jaden Doolittle – Sheldon

Aidan Hoyt – Union                                                  

Jaxon Jedrykowski – Gladstone                        

Deonte Jones– Churchill

Wesley Kommer – Thurston                                  

Nolan Rinefort – Ashland                                   

Joel Valadez – Grants Pass

Offensive & Defensive Lineman:

Andy Adams – Sheldon                                           

Gatlyn Anderson – Lebanon                              

Finn Hayes – Ashland

Taylor Johnson – Sheldon                                      

Tommy McKedy – Scappoose                           

Braden Reed – Thurston

Hayden Roth – Silverton                                         

Nic Shepherd – McNary                                      

Tristan Souza – Camas

Grant Starck – Thurston                                          

Tashaun Treat – Silverton                                  

Tai Tumanuvao – Camas

Spencer Von Flue – Silverton                                 

Gabe Wantowski – Sandy                                  

Blake Warner – Mountain View (OR)                  

Linebackers:

James Duane – South Medford                             

Tyler Ennis – Crater                                             

Porter Phillips – West Albany              

Jake Riley – Thurston                                               

Santino Stranieri – Thurston                             

Tyler Summers – Union                        

Junior Walling – McNary

Receivers & Tight Ends:

Grant Buchheit – Silverton                                  

Walker Camp – Pendelton                                  

Jett Carpenter – North Medford

Jackson Clemmer – Camas                                   

AJ Dixson – Prarie                                                 

Connor Wolfe – West Albany

Kenny Wright – Camas

Quarterbacks:

Eric Barker – McNary                                            

Griffin Line – Sheldon                                         

Rieger Sayre – Ashland       

Kicker: Trever Davis – Crater                                              

Assistant Coaches: Jeff Auvinen (McNary), Jon Eagle (Camas), Scott Grey (Thurston), Josh Line (Sheldon), Randy Waite (Crater)

Event Details:

Date: Saturday, June 20, 2020

Location: Hillsboro Stadium, Hillsboro, Oregon

Kickoff: 6:00 p.m.

Additional information and tickets are available at www.LesSchwabBowl.com

Live Updates: Les Schwab Invitational

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Les Schwab Invitational

Live Updates: Les Schwab Invitational

Thursday marks the start of the Les Schwab Invitational!

The Les Schwab Invitational is considered one of the most prestigious holiday high school basketball tournaments in the nation. This year will mark the 24th anniversary for the tournament, and it once again will feature the type of likely future college and NBA stars the LSI has been accustomed to showcasing for more than two decades.


This year’s tournament -- with three nationally ranked teams along with some of the best teams in Oregon -- will take place Dec. 26-30 at Liberty High School in Hillsboro. 

Day One

Game 1 (9am): Central Catholic vs. Grant

Game 2 (10:30am): Jefferson vs. Battle Ground

Gonzaga commit Kaden Perry struggled against a formidable Jefferson frountcourt with a pair of 6-foot-7 forwards to contain him in the paint. Perry had some nice finishes but the athleticism advantage for Jefferson let them wreck havoc in the open court. Once Perry fouled out in the third quarter, Jefferson cruised to a victory. 

Game 3 (12pm): Barlow vs. Churchill

A low scoring half has Barlow with a narrow halftime advantage. Barlow shot 30% from the field while Churchill shot 29%, including 0-9 from three. 

Barlow senior Jesse White completed his team's comeback to tie the game at 52 all with this fadeaway. 

But Silas Bennion got the last word. 

Final score

Game 4 (1:30pm): Clackamas vs. Crater

After having only a four point halftime advantage, Crater blew out Clackamas in the second half to win 71-54. Cavaliers 6-foot-8 forward, and Ducks/Beavers target, Ben Gregg showed off his outside shooting, but it was Crater center Nathan Bittle that stole the show. The 6-foot-10 junior hit from all over the floor and protected the rim on the defensive end to be clearly the most impactful player on the floor. 

Game 5 (4pm): West Linn vs. Norcross

West Linn is getting to test themselves against the 25th ranked team in the nation according to Max Preps, and held their own only trailing 30-25 at halftime. Norcross made a half-court buzzer beater to get their lead to five. Freshman guard Jackson Shelstad led the way for the West Linn Lions gunning from beyond the arc and commanding control of the offense. 

It wasn't easy, but Norcross escaped the first round with a 62-58 victory over the West Linn Lions. Shelstad hit numerous off-the-dribble threes to get the Lions within striking distance late, but they couldn't get over the hump. 

Game 6 (5:30pm): Eastside Catholic vs. Wilsonville

Wilsonville trailed by just two after one quarter of play, but then their 6-foot-6 star Dakota Reber came up with a lower body injury after completing an alley-oop. However, Wilsonville was able to hang around with the No. 22 team in the country according to Maxpreps. 

Eastside Catholic took advantage of Reber's absence to take a commanding 20 point lead. Thankfully Reber came back into the game and helped the Wildcats get within seven points with two minutes remaining, but then Eastside Catholic went on a mini-run of their own to win 78-69.

Game 7 (7pm): Mater Dei vs. Jesuit

After trailing 16-7 at the end of the first quarter, Jesuit came back to take a one point lead (26-25) at halftime over Mater Dei and five-star Kentucky commit Devin Askew. Jesuit's Liam Ruttledge hit two consecutive three pointers to end the half to take the lead for the Crusaders. 

Coming out of halftime, Mater Dei showed why they're among the best teams in the country. They won the third quarter 26-9 to take a 51-35 lead into the fourth. They would cruise to a 77-52 win. 

Game 8 (8:30pm): Lake Oswego vs. Bishop Gorman

Day Two

Game 9 (9:00am): Jesuit vs. Grant 

Game 10 (10:30am): West Linn vs. Barlow

Barlow got off to a hot start leading 23-14 after a floater from Jesse White connected at the first quarter buzzer, but West Linn outscored the Bruins 19-5 in the second quarter to take a 33-28 lead into halftime. Starting Lions center Joe Juhala dove into the media row while saving a loose ball and has his left arm in a sling while icing his shoulder. He appears to be out for the game. 

In the second half, Barlow hung around but was never able to get over the hump in a 61-59 loss to the West Linn Lions. Barlow rebounded a missed free throw with nine seconds left, down just two, but had to throw up a desperation fade away three pointer as time expired that air-balled after an ugly offensive possession to end the game. 

Game 11 (12:00pm): Battle Ground vs Clackamas

In a matchup of 2021 forward prospects, Kaden Perry (Gonzaga commit) of Battle Ground has gotten the best of Ben Gregg  and Clackamas in the first half. They lead the Cavaliers 35-27 despite impressive play from both NCAA bound players. 

The second half belonged to Clackamas who won the game 63-59 behind stellar play from Gregg. The Cavaliers also utilized defensive pressure which allowed them to get out in transition for easy buckets. 

Game 12 (1:30pm): Wilsonville vs. Lake Oswego 

 

Game 13 (4:00pm): Churchill vs. Narcross 

 

Game 14 (5:30pm): Jefferson vs. Crater 

 

Game 15 (7:00pm): Mater Dei vs. Central Catholic 

 

Game 16 (8:30pm): Eastside Catholic vs Bishop Gorman

For more information about the tournament, you can visit their website.

Battle Ground's Kaden Perry is ready for Les Schwab Invitational

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@KadenPerry20

Battle Ground's Kaden Perry is ready for Les Schwab Invitational

Battle Ground High School hasn’t been known for its boy’s basketball in recent years.

Enter head coach Manny Melo and junior big man Kaden Perry, though, and the duo has found some success.

“We definitely have some pieces to make a run hopefully, if we make the playoffs this year,” Coach Melo said.

Last season, the Battle Ground Tigers Boys Basketball team made an appearance in the State Tournament for the first time in 17 years after going 18-10 on the season.  

Battle Ground dropped it first game, 66-54, to Kentridge, but that taste of the State Tournament in Tacoma, Washington has Coach Melo and his team wanting more.

“Obviously, to make it to the Tacoma Dome, that’s our goal. We did it last year. We fell short of our goal of placing and getting a trophy, but just getting back there, we have a couple great pieces with Kaden and then we have Nate Millspaugh, Brendean Beall, coming back from last year too that are two great guards to surround him with,” Coach Melo said.

The Tigers go as Kaden Perry goes. The 6’9” forward has already committed to play at Gonzaga University and now he wants to prove that he has made a big jump from his sophomore to junior year of high school.

We obviously want to make it back to State. For me personally as player, me showing everyone that I’m a different player than I was these last two years. This leap from sophomore to junior year I feel like I’ve definitely improved my game in that I kind of just want like, ‘hey this Kaden kid -- we knew he was good, but he’s definitely shown improvements,’ that’s what I’m trying to show everyone this year. – Battle Ground forward Kaden Perry   

What Perry has already proven in his High School career is that his work ethic is second to none.

Coach Melo described Perry as, “a very hard working kid, [who] runs up and down the floor at his own expense.”

“He just does it as hard as he can even if he’s tired,” Melo said. “He never lets people know that he’s tired. He’s always working hard. He’s a guy that puts his teammates first all the time. He’s always keeping his teammates accountable. He’s just a great kid on the court, very athletic, fun to watch. His teammates love him, the fans love him, students here love him, and coaches love him.”

Now, Perry and the Tigers will get a chance to showcase their talents at the highly regarded 2019 Les Schwab Invitational.

This five-day, 32-game, boys high school basketball tournament features 16 teams chosen from Oregon and Washington’s top 6A and 5A schools, and national teams through a partnership with Nike.

Perry is looking forward to “good basketball” when it comes to the level of competition the Les Schwab Invitation brings.

“Everyone there is supposed to be good. It should be fun, all the game should be close, and we should play our best basketball.”

Participation in the LSI is based on a selection process, which occurs each January.

Coach Melo knows how important the Invitational competition will be for this team.  

“It’s going to be great four games no matter what. All the teams there are obviously very, very good. They were invited for a reason into this tournament. So, just continue to see what were good at, continue to work on what we can work on, and just compete for 48 games. I’m excited. The kids are excited as well.”

Battle Ground will face Jefferson on December 26th at 4:00pm in the Tigers first game of the Les Schwab Invitational. 

Battle Ground junior and Gonzaga commit Kaden Perry puts family first both on and off the court

Battle Ground junior and Gonzaga commit Kaden Perry puts family first both on and off the court

Family.

Being apart of one doesn’t always mean you're blood-related.

In fact, that word often means a lot more than its standard definition.

When groups of people share a common bond or a common interest, they can form that family connection, and that is as thick as their own blood relatives-- and sometimes stronger.

Over the past few years, the Boys Basketball team at Battle Ground High School has been establishing that sense of family-- And a sense of accomplishment.  

Being a family is what Battle Ground Boys Basketball head coach Manny Melo is all about this season.

“We’ve tried to instill [being a family] in our program a lot this year,” Coach Melo said. “We have it on our shooting shirts this year with the word 'family' written across our back and this team definitely feels like a tight-knit group.”

 

 

Battle Ground made it to the Boys State Tournament last year for the first time in 17 years.

Within this group of six seniors and six juniors this season, there is team captain Kaden Perry who has stood out as a basketball player and as a person.   

A junior, Perry stands at 6’9” and towers over his teammates. But that's not the only thing that separates Perry from being your average 17 year-old, and it has nothing to do with his athletic skill or work ethic.

Perry has been through more at his young age than some go through in a lifetime.

During Perry’s freshman year of high school, his mother, DeLena, became ill. What seemingly began as a normal bug turned into a rare disease. DeLena was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome in 2018, which is a condition where the immune system attacks the nerves. DeLena was temporarily paralyzed from the neck down.  

It’s scary. It was like one day she was waking up every morning making breakfast for me, taking care of me, and then the next day it’s like I’m the one doing that role and I’m the one that has to take care of the family and stuff like that. It’s brought my family a lot closer, and it’s definitely tested our bonds. But all together, it’s made us way closer. – Tigers big man Kaden Perry

“It was a really hard time,” Perry added.

The Tigers starting big man became a master juggler. He was forced to balance the care of his mom, worrying about her constantly, to stay on top of his school work, and still had to find time to improve his hoop game.

Yet, with Perry’s mother being his number one fan, Perry was able to draw inspiration from that and balance his family, school, and basketball life.

When Perry was asked who has been his life's inspiration, he didn’t hesitate-- “That’s easily my mom. I mean she’s gone through so much and she’d always been there, always been my number one supporter no matter what she’s going through. She’s definitely been my number one inspiration.”

Perry found balance and peace with his mom receiving treatment over the last year and a half; he also found time to take calls from colleges who were trying to recruit him.   

Just taking it one step at a time. It’s a lot sometimes – take care of mom here, I know I have basketball -- everything is just a set time, so just trying to find the right balance of everything and making sure that I get my priorities done to get where I want to go. 

The University of Oregon, Oregon State University, and the University of Washington all showed interest in Perry.

But, Perry's heart has always been set on one school: Gonzaga University.

"That’s always been my goal. That’s been my dream college for as long as I can remember… I talked to colleges here and there, and got offers [here and] there and was like, ‘gosh, I wonder if I’m like getting to that point where I’ll get that call from Gonzaga or that talk from Gonzaga…’ When they finally offered to me, I was like, ‘oh yeah, that’s the one!’”

Gonzaga is the one for Perry. It’s apparent when talking with him that he can’t wait to be a part of Mark Few’s program in Spokane. The Bulldogs are currently the No. 1 team in the nation after their blowout win over Eastern Washington and Villanova's upset victory over the then top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks.

Of course, beyond recruiting and rankings, there's one thing that makes Perry light up even more than thinking about becoming the next great Zag: It's knowing that his mother is on the mend.

“It’s a slow recovery process, but she’s slowly getting better and she’s walking with a walker now. She’s showing up to my games.”

A smile beams across Perry's face. “It’s a slow process, but she’s getting better.”

Perry couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to look up and see his mother back in the stands cheering him on.
“She’s always been my number one fan... It’s awesome to see her out there now and especially because it means so much more because it’s a lot more difficult for her to get out there and knowing that she’s still putting in the effort to come see my games is awesome.”

It comes as no surprise the word 'family' resonates with Perry. It's one of the reasons Perry was drawn to the Gonzaga Basketball program.

"It’s a team, but it’s a family, as well. And everyone seems to have a really close connection. That’s really exciting.”

After sitting down and talking with Perry, it’s no surprise that Gonzaga recruited him. GU has been known for finding talented kids with extremely high work ethics, who put family first. 

That’s Kaden Perry.

He will join the long list of Zags who have been known as extremely great basketball players and even better people.

That list includes Washington-grown Dan Dickau and Casey Calvary to Canadians Kevin Pangos and Kelly Olynyk. And let's not forget the Stockton family, John and David. 

The German writer Goethe once said, "We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”

And while there's the old addage, "You don't choose your family," try telling that to Kaden Perry.

He still has a year and a half with his mom in Battle Ground before joining the GU family, but there’s no doubt the Gonzaga program will be there with open arms to receive him when the time comes to transition from one family to the next. 

Perry will suit up with his fellow Tigers in the Les Schwab Invitational beginning on December 26th at Liberty High School. More info about the tournament can be found here.