Eleven metro area players went to NCAA tourney; two reach the Final Four
The Portland-Vancouver, Wash., area had an impressive 11 players in the NCAA Tournament. And, for the second year in a row, only two still stand tall heading into the Final Four: Jefferson High grads Aaron Miles and Michael Lee.
'How many point guards in the Kansas program have taken the team to back-to-back Final Fours?' asks Erin Cowan, referring to Miles, a player he has tutored the past couple of summers at Portland Community College.
The answer: none in the modern era, because Kansas hasn't made consecutive Final Four appearances since 1952-53.
'Now Aaron has the chance to get the hardware,' Cowan says.
So does Lee, who also works out at PCC in the offseason.
'Michael could have played football for any Pac-10 school, but he chose basketball, which he had a passion for,' Cowan says. 'A lot of guys said Michael couldn't play there. He put in a lot of hard work and got the opportunity.'
The Jayhawks (29-7) will meet Marquette (27-5) in the national semifinal Saturday at New Orleans. Last year, Kansas lost to Maryland in the semis.
Miles, averaging 8.9 points, 6.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 steals, has been stellar at times, but his erratic shooting (.405 from the field, .239 on 3-pointers) stunts his game. Next year, when seniors Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison have departed, he'll need to step up and score.
'He gets caught up in distributing and doesn't get in rhythm,' Cowan says. 'He can shoot better; he just doesn't have the confidence. If he could just make a jump shot, he'd be one of the best players in the country.'
The burly, 6-3 Lee has played in 35 games, averaging 15.7 minutes and 4.7 points and shooting .500 on 3-pointers. His defense has improved tremendously, allowing him to get more playing time. Could he get a shot at defending Marquette superstar Dwyane Wade on Saturday?
What a year
Folks, we're living in the golden era of Portland area basketball.
Seven Portland players were in the NCAA Tournament: Miles, Lee, Arizona's Salim Stoudamire and Chris Rodgers, San Diego's Mike McGrain, Oregon's Brandon Lincoln and Stanford's Olatunde Sobomehin (hey, he played five minutes this year).
Four Vancouver players went to the tourney: Gonzaga's Zach Gourde, Colorado State's Andy Birley, Oregon's James Davis and BYU's Terry Nashif.
Not to mention, Brandon Brooks played for USC, which came within one victory of playing in the NCAAs (even though Brooks had blown out his knee), and Boomer Brazzle's Pepperdine team fizzled after two consecutive trips to the Big Dance.
Next year? Add Vancouver prep Derek Raivio, headed to Gonzaga, and Jeff's Thomas Gardner, headed to Missouri, to the mix.
Stoudamire had only four points, making one basket, in Saturday's 78-75 loss to Kansas. The sophomore says a hip pointer suffered in the first half hindered him. 'Instead of using it as motivation,' Stoudamire told the Tucson Citizen, 'I let it bother me and I let it take myself out of the game.'
Stoudamire averaged 13 points and shot 44 percent from 3-point land this season. Next year, he expects to start at point guard; Cowan says Stoudamire just needs to play within UA's system and win the mental game.
The Trail Blazers' Damon Stoudamire calls his cousin 'the best college player out of Oregon right now.'
Adds Damon: 'I ain't going to make a lot of people mad, so I won't elaborate on that. It's a self-explanatory thing. Next year, when he has the ball in his hands a lot more, he will just kind of fall into a higher level of play. I like what I see; you're seeing growth from him.'