In my family, my siblings and parents breathe, sweat and dream of soccer. Needless to say, that when my interest in basketball came afloat, I was sort of the “ugly duck.” My brothers can attest to how important basketball is to me as they saw me from a very early age spend countless hours watching it on TV, playing it, or volunteering to keep the class’s basketball safe at home even though the basketball was usually bigger than me.
The reality is that coming from a soccer oriented family and at a mere 5’1” height, people have never thought of me as a basketball fan let alone a player. However, while short in stature, my love for basketball is bigger than planet earth if I had to estimate a size. Not only have I played but also coached some time ago, but we will not go that far back!
Throughout the years of following basketball I have fallen to amazing players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, John Stockton, and I must confess, even though I am in Blazers’ land, I am a devoted Lakers and, of course, Kobe Bryant’s number one fan.
And while we could go hours and hours talking about my obsession with basketball let’s talk about where it all starts for those talented stars. As you may already know, last weekend Portland had the privilege of hosting the annual Nike Hoop Summit.
This all started back in 2008 when it became a tradition that Portland would be the host for the Nike Hoop Summit to date. Basketball fans from all around the US including college and NBA scouts showed up to extend their support and admiration to the 2017 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Select Team. The experience of watching such young talent is in a class of its own. The Nike Hoop Summit is the forum where young top male high school senior players take on a World Team representing the best of the globe amongst players 19 years old or younger.
The pressure on the USA Basketball Men’s Junior. National Select Team was on. History tells us there was an all-time 13-6 record to think of and the select team did not disappoint one bit.
OSN arrived hours before the doors opened, but please don’t ask why, all I will say is that for some the excitement was too much to sit at home and wait for the official time. As you read along you will see how showing up early paid off as we got something very special to share with you our readers and fans of basketball.
The hype outside the Moda Center was high. There truly is nothing that compares to the excitement found in a non-professional sport event. Especially one at this level where the country is competing literally against the world. As we waited for the doors to open we could see families with signs, fans with pictures and even jerseys to sign. As I looked around me I was very excited to discover a familiar face in the crowd. A basketball legend and athlete like no other in the world. OSN had the pleasure of by chance to be sitting down next to Danny Ainge, the general manager for the Boston Celtics.
Danny Ainge, originally from Eugene, is one of the most renowned athletes the state has produced. To help you understand a little bit about the importance of this sighting, allow me to share. Danny played for North Eugene High School, leading them to back-to-back state basketball championships in 1976 and 1977. He of course, earned all-state honors both years as well. Upon high school graduation, he continued his education at Brigham Young University (BYU) where he continued to play.
During his tenure at BYU, Danny was named national basketball college player of the year and won the John R. Wooden Award for the most outstanding male college basketball player. As if his college success wasn’t enough, while still at BYU, Danny was selected in baseball’s 1977 amateur draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. He was with them for three seasons as a second baseman. Danny moved on from a successful baseball experience to being drafted into the NBA by the Celtics in 1981.
After having played eight years for the Boston Celtics, two with the Sacramento Kings & Portland Trail Blazers (respectively), Danny closed his career as a NBA player with the Phoenix Suns in 1995. He moved onto coaching the Phoenix Suns and currently serves as general manager for the Boston Celtics.
Sitting down next to him OSN had no alternative but to take a chance and ask him to chat so we could share it with you our readers. Without further delay, here is a brief but substantial discussing with the great Danny Ainge:
OSN: Welcome to Portland! It seems to be, the wind and rain decided to give you and the team a nice welcome to the Pacific Northwest.
Ainge: Yes, it sure did. I am from the area so I am used to it.
OSN: Did you fly in today for the game?
Ainge: No, I have been here for three days. Been watching them practice.
OSN: Very nice! What do you think so far?
Ainge: It’s been good. Wanted to get a chance to see the international players as it’s hard to watch them play. Sometimes they don’t play often with their teams. So, this is a good chance to watch them play.
OSN: Are you watching someone in specific in that group?
Ainge: Not necessarily. Watching them all. Talented players here.
OSN: Where do you see these guys in the future? Any predictions?
Ainge: Well, a very small percentage will make it to the NBA. Some of them will likely play for college.
OSN: Talking about playing, where was your favorite place to play?
OSN: What about your favorite venue?
Ainge: Madison Square Garden for sure.
The Moda Center’s doors opened and we had to hurry in. We thanked Danny for his time and rushed in before the wind blew us afar. The crowd started to gather inside and the announcement of the players coming out to warm up was heard out loud.
The roster was announced for both the USA and World Team. It was impossible not to cheer louder than usual when the “local’s” name came up. Yes, Oregon was indeed playing on the court that night!
From Danny Ainge, we take you to another pride and joy Oregon has produced in recent years. Troy Brown from Centennial High School in Gresham, Oregon stood ready to greet his hometown.
Troy Brown Jr. started playing at age six. Whether he knew he would make it to High School basketball stardom or not, he has certainly shown commitment and dedication to make sure his name is not only spoken of, but recognized.
Troy’s athletic lineage is one of a kind. His older sister Jada plays basketball at the University of Kansas. His father played basketball and his mother played volleyball at Texas A&I. To say that this isn’t something that should be highlighted would be cutting you, our reader, short of essential elements that without a doubt have helped formed the basketball player Troy Brown Jr. is about.
All eyes have been on Troy for some time. He has caught the attention of multiple colleges and universities in the past couple of years. One of those notorious moments is the unusual early offer he received from Duke University when he was only 15 years of age. And while he could’ve found Duke to be a wonderful place to continue his basketball dreams, the Centennial High School forward has officially signed with the Oregon Ducks as of November 2016.
With the Ducks coming out of an appearance in the final four during March Madness 2017, one has to wonder what will it be like in the next years when young talent such as Troy Brown joins their ranks.
Troy showed the fans and scouts at the summit the caliber of player he is about. Having made basketball the center of his world, Troy has matured and come a long way since Duke University approached him to join their team. Therefore, it is exciting to see that he is making the Oregon Ducks his formal choice and we cannot wait to see more of him as he carries our state to stardom.
When you find someone as Danny Ainge and you are there to witness the beginnings of someone such as Troy Brown, one must stop and look at the importance of the Nike Hoop Summit. Because without a doubt it is a high-profile event and a must for basketball fans across the world.
While there are different opportunities for high school players to showcase their skills, the summit remains one of the most influential ones. Their list of accomplished former participants make it hard to label it any other way. With a total of 189 former USA and World Select participants (combined) who have been drafted by NBA teams, we know this is the place to come play and be watched.
But the list does not stop there. We must also talk about Anthony Davis, the most recent USA No. 1 selection was eventual Olympic and World Cup gold medalist. But wait, there is more! Since the first Nike Hoop Summit in 1995, 10 Hoop Summit alumni have been chosen No. 1 in the NBA Draft. 65 players have been selected as first 10 draftees and the list goes on and on.
This year’s summit has left a lot of talent for all of us basketball fans to follow from this point on. Let us see how many make it and how many fade away with time. But rest assure that regardless of how many make it big or fall flat, the Nike Hoop Summit will always have young talent with big hearts and hopes for basketball for years to come.