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Hoop Kings soar at nationals

The ages 14-and-under boys basketball team, which includes five area players, comes back strong after losing their first two at the tourney
by: DAN BROOD, KINGS OF THE COURT — The Portland Hoop Kings, an ages 14-and-under boys basketball team that fared well at the national AAU championships includes local players, from left, Indy Ashford, Ian McGetrick, Jalen Caoile, Ryan Burghardt and Ben Ellsworth. The team won three straight games at the national event.

Injuries.

A pair of disappointing setbacks.

A motivational team meeting.

Inspired victories.

And, overall, a worthwhile experience.

The Portland Hoop Kings, an ages 14-and-under boys basketball team featuring five players from Tigard and Tualatin, got to live it all as they competed in the Amateur Athletic Union National Championships, held Aug. 1-8 at the Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

'It was a great experience,' Hoop Kings wing/post Ben Ellsworth of Tualatin said, despite the fact that he suffered a fractured finger during the team's third game of the tourney. 'There was a lot of good competition.'

The Hoop Kings, after dropping their first two games, both in pool play, at the national tourney, came back strong to win three straight contests before being ousted with a close two-point setback.

'I think all the kids will benefit from this,' said Hoop Kings coach Richard Caoile. 'It was a great experience for me. Like the kids, I hadn't been on a trip like this before. It was a great experience.'

The Hoop Kings, a tournament team that had been practicing since last October, has been together as a group since the players were in fourth grade. Two of the players, Ellsworth and guard Jalen Caoile of Tigard, have played basketball together since first grade.

But this was the first time the team has made a cross country trip for national competition. The Hoop Kings could have gone last year, as they qualified by winning the Oregon AAU state title, but they chose not to.

This year, the Hoop Kings repeated as state champs - 'Our goal always is to win the state title,' Richard Caoile said - and they opted to attend the national tourney this year.

But, the Hoop Kings' tourney stay didn't get off to the best of starts. The team opened play in Pool X with a 71-40 loss to JG Yellow Rising Stars from Illinois on Aug. 2. In their second pool play game, the Hoop Kings fell 53-41 to Florida Elite on Aug. 3.

'We didn't do well in those first two games,' Richard Caoile said. 'I think we were a little shell shocked. We had to get together and have a meeting after that.'

The meeting. The coach and players say it may have been the turning point.

'I think the talk we had effected everyone,' Richard Caoile said. 'We needed something like that. It was pretty inspirational.'

'I know in the first two games, I came out cold,' said Ryan Burghardt, a 6-foot-2 center from Tigard. 'Then I picked up my game.'

'After that meeting I knew I had to pick up my game,' said 6-3 post Indy Ashford, a Tigard resident who will be attending Jesuit High School. 'I was an undersized big guy, playing against guys who were 6-6 and 6-7, but I had to step up my game and play well.'

It may just have been concentration.

'Ben is our best defender, but he wasn't focusing on defense,' Richard Caoile said.

That certainly seemed to change in the team's third pool play game, a 52-48 win over The Family, a team from Detroit, Mich., in a contest played Aug. 4.

In that game, Ellsworth suffered a fracture in the index finger of his right hand. He went for a blocked shot and, coming down, he hit his hand on the head of an opposing player.

The Hoop Kings entered bracket play as the No. 4 seed from Pool X. They rolled to a win in that contest, beating the Arkansas Wings 50-25 on Aug. 5.

Later that day, the Hoop Kings picked up another big win as they scored a 71-40 victory over the Blue Devils from Washington D.C. in a second-round contest.

In the third round, the Hoop Kings saw their tourney stay come to an end as they were edged 50-48 by D-One Sports from North Carolina (a team with no player standing shorter than 6-feet tall) in a third-round game.

'We were pretty successful for an Oregon team,' Richard Caoile said. 'After those first two games, we felt pretty good about how we played.'

The Hoop Kings did well despite not having the services of one of their key players, Ian McGetrick of Tigard, who was out of action because of an ankle injury.

But he still made the trip to Florida.

'He was like one of the coaches for us,' Jalen Caoile said.

With all of the players on the Hoop Kings ready to begin their freshmen year in high school, the group says that the tourney experience will be beneficial as they get ready to start their prep basketball careers.

'We got to see a bunch of different styles,' Jalen Caoile said. 'That was hard in those first two games. There was a lot of banging and grabbing of jerseys that we weren't used to. We had to grab back.Oh yeah, I'd love to do this again.'

'These are smart kids,' Richard Caoile said. 'I've always been proud that all the kids on the team are honor roll kids.'

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The sponsors for the Hoop Kings include Oregon Decorative Rock, Portland Polie Association and Jet Delivery Service.