Kings of the Court
• Outstanding players from four PIL schools make Tribune's All-City team
Jefferson senior Thomas Gardner scored 37 points and sank the winning shot in the Democrats' 70-67 homecourt victory over Lincoln on Jan. 7.
Lincoln senior Neal Zumwalt's game-high 19 points led the Cardinals over visiting Jeff 63-53 on Feb. 7.
Gardner, who is headed for Missouri, and Zumwalt, whose basketball future is uncertain, are the Portland Tribune's PIL co-players of the year.
Kevyn Green of Benson, Bobby Lester of Madison and Omar Leary of Lincoln also have been named to the Trib's annual All-City team.
Gardner was second in the state this season with 25.5 points per game, and the 6-5 guard grabbed 11.0 rebounds per game during the regular season. He led the Demos to fifth in the state tournament. In a 71-65 tourney victory over South Eugene, he scored 35 points, including 18 of Jeff's 20 points in the fourth quarter.
Zumwalt, a 6-2 guard, helped Lincoln win its first Portland Interscholastic League title since 1964. He averaged 18.7 points and 5.6 rebounds. He says the University of Portland has showed recent interest in him as a basketball player.
Early start was the key
Zumwalt began playing organized basketball at age 7 in a program at the Mt. Scott Community Center. He quickly developed into a solid player and reached the Lincoln varsity as a freshman.
His play against Jeff on Feb. 7 enabled the Cardinals to erase an 11-point first-half deficit and essentially clinch the league title before a packed Lincoln gym.
'That game is definitely going to stay in my head forever,' Zumwalt says. 'I remember going out to warm up before the game and it was so muggy because of all the people.
'Winning the league title is something I'm extremely proud of because I thought we could do that in my four years at Lincoln. Usually it's been Jefferson that wins, so this is great to have another school win.'
Zumwalt plans to major in psychology in college. Gardner intends to study business at Missouri.
Both are scheduled to play in the Northwest Shootout as part of the Oregon team that will take on Washington's all-stars April 12 at the Chiles Center.
Green, a 6-4 senior forward, is no stranger to all-star players. His uncle is A.C. Green, the former Benson, Oregon State and NBA star.
Green started playing team basketball in the fourth grade and spent three seasons on the Benson varsity. In 2001, the Techmen reached the state title game. They finished fifth in 2002 and were ranked in the state's top 10 most of this season before losing in the second round of the state playoffs.
Green averaged 15 points and six rebounds per game as Benson reached the state playoffs for the 11th straight season, the longest consecutive PIL string.
'It was tough not getting to the tournament,' he says. 'We had high expectations. The best part of the season was just the opportunity to get better each game and play with a great group of guys.'
At the moment, Green doesn't have a college lined up, but he has options. He expects to major in communications.
'Something will happen,' he says. 'I'm just waiting for things to fall into place.'
Boosting quickness is vital
Lester, a 6-8 senior center, also began playing on teams in the fourth grade. He was always the tallest kid on his team until reaching the Madison varsity as a sophomore, when he lined up against 6-10 Chris Botez.
'He taught me a lot about how to play inside,' Lester says.
Lester scored 18.9 points per game this season. He credits offseason work with Madison coach Chuck Matthews and AAU coach Mark Niebergall for much of his success, particularly in improving his quickness.
In a game against Grant, Lester tallied 27 points and had a number of blocks.
'But we lost, which was how our season went,' he says.
Madison, which missed the state playoffs by one game last year, finished seventh in the PIL.
'We had a problem with leadership this season,' Lester says. 'I tried to be a leader, but I don't think I did too well. But we still had fun.'
Lester is hoping to land at an NCAA Division I school and says Boise State is interested. He's
also keeping local small school powers Cascade and Concordia in mind.
Sophomore Leary has two more seasons to make up his mind about a college, but the 5-10 guard already has his eye on a national power Ñ Arizona.
'They do a good job of getting their guards into the pros and they have a track record with Portland players,' he says. 'That's a ways off, but that would be nice.'
Leary averaged 17 points in his second varsity season. His passing and aggressive moves to the basket were vital. His last-second basket beat Benson on Jan. 10 and was part of a 17-game winning streak.