Jefferson High School
5210 N Kerby
Sun Aug 11, 1 pm

Forget the crybaby Blazers, whose slovenly ass-dragging makes it seem as if the game (the actual up-and-down the court game, not the contract negotiations and Nike-endorsement game) is an inconvenience to their lives. The most energetic and high-spirited game in town is the Great Northwest Summer Pro-Am at Jefferson High School court. For six weeks, past stars from Portland's high schools, and current high school players, have teamed up for a series of rollicking, high-quality basketball games. The only prize at stake here has been pride and bragging rights.

Over the past decade, Portland has been a remarkable--if not largely unsung--training ground for the nation's basketball stars. Less acknowledged than the famed playgrounds of Los Angeles and the fiercely competitive schools in Chicago, Portland's schools--primarily Jefferson, Benson and Jesuit--have consistently fed the college programs.

Currently, a dozen or so former Portland high school players are standouts in college hoops. As a guard at Jefferson, class of 2001's Aaron Miles slid through defensive lines as easily as a ghost moving through walls. Last year was his freshman season at top-ranked Kansas, where he started nearly every game.

Lesser known, but with lightning speed, Darren Cooper will enter his second year at Eastern Washington this fall. In his first college game last year, he jammed 13 points in just 19 minutes, rallying his team for an upset over the ninth-ranked St. Joseph. Both players have participated in the series all summer long. Even standouts like Freddie Jones, a University of Oregon player and one of this year's first-round NBA picks, have shown up.

The games have been friendly but intensely competitive, a remarkable showcase of local talent. Mixed in with the college stars has been a cadre of current high school stars. Most notably, Thomas Gardner, a Jefferson senior, has been showing off his explosive slam-dunks that look like he's been launched from a trampoline.

The eight-team league has played throughout the summer, the final, championship game will be held on Sunday, August 11. A $1 donation is requested. PHIL BUSSE