With two top picks, Portland emerges as latest hoops hotbed
Portland natives Terrence Jones, Ross expected to be selected in first round
Small city has had nine players make it in NBA in last 10 years; more on the way
Kevin Love hails from Portland suburb and quality of hoops is at an alltime high
From its unibrowed top pick to the chaos that could follow, this is an eccentric NBA draft. So it's fitting that the underappreciated basketball city of Portland is emerging as a storyline.
Portland, a river town that loves itself and embraces being weird, chose the perfect draft to export two top-20 picks. When Terrence Jones and Terrence Ross, close friends and former teammates at Jefferson High, are drafted, it will mark the first time the city has ever had multiple first rounders in the same draft class.
It's just the latest sign that Portland is a rising hoops hotbed. Kevin Love, the best power forward in the world currently, is from Lake Oswego, Ore., an affluent Portland suburb. Nine players who attended high school in Oregon have made it to the NBA in the past 10 years. It's not New York or Chicago, but for a state that has had only 26 NBA or ABA players in its history, it's a significant movement.
Jones and Ross will increase the number to 11 NBA players this decade. And Portland should have several more coming soon, including UNLV forward Mike Moser and Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer. There is also a growing number of quality, role-playing Division I college basketball players from Portland stocking rosters across the country.
Don't expect the city to get too wrapped up in excitement, though. Portland is different that way.
"People here, they're not blown away," said Tony Broadus, the new coach at Portland Community College and former coach at Grant High, where he won a 2008 state title with Moser, Saint Mary's guard Paul McCoy and Lamar guard Mike James. "There's a sense of reality that basketball is what we're good at. We're not shocked at all. We're very good for our size. We figure, if making it to the NBA is a one-in-a-million chance for most guys, then the odds are better for us. It's one in a thousand."
You should know, Portland says. You should know Steve "Snapper" Jones and LeRoy Ellis and Richard Washington came from here. You should know Danny Ainge and A.C. Green and Michael Doleac did, too. You should know about Damon Stoudamire and Terrell Brandon and Fred Jones.
Portland, the proud hosts of the Trail Blazers even when they don't resemble an NBA team, figures you are late to the game. That's the Pacific Northwest chip on its shoulder. Seattle has that chip, too. The cities have long alternated between rivalry and appreciation of their region's basketball heritage. Over the past 15 years, Seattle has been especially productive at churning out NBA talent. This year, Portland has the edge on top-tier talent.
Stoudamire and Brandon, two quality NBA point guards in their day, have been good stewards of this basketball community. They help the young stars and they take pride in their status as local athletes who made it. Now, it's time for Jones and Ross to combine with Love and create a homegrown trio that people have never seen in these parts, even if they'll act nonchalant about it.
"The Terrences is what they call them around here," Broadus said.
Broadus is a graduate of tradition-rich Jefferson High. Jones and Ross are a special breed, even when judged by the school's high standard. Jones, who won a national title at Kentucky last season, is a 6-foot-9 combo forward in the Lamar Odom mold. There are concerns about his maturity and consistency, but the NBA game might be an even better fit for his versatility.
Ross, who played Robin to Jones' Batman for two years at Jefferson and won a 2008 Class 5A state title, might wind up being even better than his friend. The sweet-shooting, high-flying 6-7 swingman developed rapidly over two seasons at Washington. In high school, he left Jefferson after his sophomore year to attend Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md. He spent one year there and returned to Jefferson, but he didn't play basketball his senior season because he needed to focus on academics.
"They're both really good kids that have tremendous upside," Broadus said. "Both are legitimate pros, and I think that one, if not both of them, will be an all-star one day. I'd like to see both of them go to a contender. They could bring a lot to the table come playoff time. Ross -- he's the X Factor. It's hard to get a gauge on how good he can be. He just keeps getting better and better and better."
In that sense, perhaps Ross exemplifies Portland basketball the best. It seemingly keeps getting better. The same can be said for the entire state. And in Broadus' view, the region hasn't sacrificed its identity as it grows in significance.
"We don't take the game for granted out here," Broadus said. "Shooting is important out here. You can have all the shake and bake and ankle-breaking moves, but if you can't shoot you don't get a whole lot of respect around here."
It's a good thing Jones and Ross can shoot. They can't misrepresent their hometown, not with Portland primed to have its best draft night ever.
Jerry Brewer is a columnist for The Seattle Times.
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