Athletic family, prowess fuel Zach, Josh and Seth as Jesuit eyes state title

Playing on the same team is nothing new for Zach, Josh and Seth Tarver. They've been doing it for a decade.

It started when Seth, currently a high school sophomore, was in kindergarten. Zach, a second-grader, and Josh, a first-grader, were playing in a local basketball league in Northeast Portland, and Seth came along, too.

'He was really too young, but we sneaked him in,' says Josh, now a junior. 'He was bigger than some of the other kids, so he fit right in.'

These days the brothers fit right in on the state's top-ranked boys basketball team, the Jesuit Crusaders. Josh and Seth are starters. Zach, a senior, may return to the starting lineup once he fully recovers from a finger injury suffered during football season.

'A lot of people don't get to experience this kind of thing, playing on a team with your brothers,' Zach Tarver says. 'It's pretty cool.'

Jesuit, which reached the state semifinals in March, will get a test of its championship mettle in the Les Schwab Invitational at the Chiles Center and Stott Center.

Jesuit plays Marist of Eugene at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the four-day, 16-team tournament. The field also includes Benson, Jefferson, Lincoln, Sunset, Lake Oswego, Barlow, Aloha and the teams that played for the state title last year, Redmond and Hillsboro.

Older brother scored as Bruin

The Tarver brothers have long been headed toward success at the high school level. Their older brother, Shon, played four years (1991-94) of basketball at UCLA. He led the Bruins in scoring in 1993. It was in those formative years that the younger boys, who moved from Los Angeles to Portland in 1991, were beginning to look forward to bigger things.

'Seeing him play on television, that was a pretty big thing,' Zach Tarver says. 'Seeing him play pretty much cemented that we were going to be basketball players.'

Their older sister, Taryn, was an elite sprinter at Benson High and won the 100 meters at the state meet in 1992. She later ran for the University of Oregon and won the Mrs. Oregon International pageant in 2000, becoming the first African-American winner.

Their father, John Tarver, played in the NFL, scoring eight touchdowns as a running back with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles (1972-75).

Their mother, Jean Tarver, was not an athlete.

John Tarver, who works in the insurance industry, says he tried hard to use Shon's days at UCLA as a tool for his youngest sons.

'My goal was to get my boys on a college campus as young kids,' he says. 'Once they see what's after high school, they start talking about what college they want to go to. They can visualize what's after their high school education and use that as motivation in the classroom.

'Not a lot of inner-city kids are exposed to that.'

The strategy has worked for the first of the trio. Zach will go to Oregon State on a football scholarship.

Josh and Seth see themselves playing basketball in college.

Fifth Metro League title taken

John Tarver had his sons headed for Jesuit long before they probably knew where the school was. Although the three boys frequently played on the same team in other sports, basketball became the focus as they worked their way through Trinity Lutheran School.

The senior Tarver coached a club team, the Wolves, that traveled the Northwest playing in tournaments. Many of the area's top basketball players, including Corey Allen (now at Central Catholic), Dominic Waters (Grant), Lathen Wallace (Jefferson), Robert Malone (Roosevelt) and Deshawn McKenzie (Benson), played alongside the Tarvers.

John Tarver began implementing Jesuit's offense into his club teams to help ease his sons into the Crusader program. That proved doubly effective for Jesuit because varsity players Jordan Mast and Matt Wilcox, both junior guards, also played for the Wolves.

Last season, the Tarvers and Mast all were starters, They guided the Crusaders to their fifth straight Metro League title and into the state tourney, where they lost to Hillsboro in the semis, 64-57 in overtime.

'We should have done better last year,' Seth Tarver says. 'People thought because we were a young team we were going to have a rebuilding year. We wanted to shock everyone.'

Jesuit finished the season 20-7 after losing to Clackamas in the third-place game.

Talent overflows

This season, it would shock no one if Jesuit won the state title.

Josh, a 6-2 point guard, has emerged as a significant scoring threat, leading the Crusaders with 15 points per game. Seth, a 6-5 forward, averages 11 a game. Zach, a -6-5 center, chipped in three a game in wins over Central Catholic (64-37) and Hillsboro (74-52).

'I'm scoring well, but we have a lot of talented people on our team,' Josh Tarver says. 'Jordan (Mast) can take over. Sergio Jones can take over. We have people who can score if I'm not hitting my shots.'

Seth Tarver says the Crusaders are a more united, inspired team this season and are comfortable being ranked No. 1.

'Our practices are a lot more intense,' he says. 'I see that there are teams in the state that we have to beat, but I don't see any threats to us.'

Zach Tarver says it might help that he has signed with OSU.

'I kind of got lost last year because I started thinking more about being a football player,' he says. 'This year, I'm relaxed and a lot more motivated to win a state title. I'm doing whatever I can to make that happen.

'I know it would make it a lot more special because my brothers are on the team.'

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