One of the most exciting plot lines for the resurgent Trail Blazers this season has been the emergence of hometowner Ime Udoka.
Udoka, who graduated from Jefferson High in 1995 and finished his college career at Portland State University, had played only a smattering of NBA minutes before starting every game this season for the Blazers.
He's one of a handful of Portlanders (including Udoka's friend and role model, Damon Stoudamire) to play for the Blazers in their 36-year history. Udoka's impact as a defensive stopper and dangerous three-point shooter has been well-reported. But we wanted to know which Portland courts shaped the 29-year-old Blazer's life. Here's what he said.
Moore Street Community Center
5325 N Williams Ave.
It's where we basically played every day growing up, and practiced the most. We did "midnight basketball" there, which they had to keep kids off the streets. It started around 10 [pm] and ended maybe 1 [am]. That was our workout place all summer long, all day. It was where the best runs were, and we knew we could always find a game there.... [Former Grant High and University of Oregon star] Terrell Brandon would be there working out when he was with Minnesota. Damon would come back and we'd play two-on-two.
Northeast 7th Avenue and Fremont Street
For me, the best park would be Irving Park. Even now, in the summers, guys get together there. I don't play much now because I had some knee surgeries and I stay off the concrete, but that's where the best competition has always been in an outdoor park.
6031 N Montana Ave.
The middle school where I came up at. That's where I worked on my individual game the most. I lived a few blocks away, and every day my whole neighborhood heard me dribbling up the street. It didn't matter if it was raining, a hundred degrees in the summer, or snow, whatever, I'd be on my way up there...I spent countless hours by myself out there in the rain. It would come down, and there'd be nowhere to hide, so I'd just stay out there until I was soaked...I'd watch college games, pro games, watch Damon and all these guys [on television], then, right after the game was over, I'd be out the door trying to work on those moves I saw them do.
5210 N Kerby Ave.
After Ockley Green I went to Jefferson, and that [indoor] court is special to me. Still, going up there in the summer and playing with kids—watching them in the summer league—is special.... I know the kids in the neighborhood, and that's obviously a special place to me, after spending my whole four years there.
Stott Center, Portland State University
930 SW Hall St.
Coming back to Portland, it's where I built my reputation to even get on the scene on the college level. After going away [to play college basketball for College of Eastern Utah and University of San Francisco], I never really wanted to come back home. But to come back and play in front of family and friends, it was great to be there. I support Portland State now, and stay close to that program, as well as Jefferson. I work out there all the time and live close to there now.
North Wheeler Avenue and Multnomah Street
I had played a lot of games at the Rose Garden [before playing for the Blazers], and at Memorial Coliseum, [which] was also a special court to me being that we played the state championship there—we lost the state championship there. We played college games at Memorial Coliseum, and that's where I watched Clyde [Drexler] and all those guys for all those years. But the Rose Garden is definitely special; it's a dream come true to come home and play.