While the basketball world hangs on whether the Portland Trail Blazers choose Greg Oden or Kevin Durant on June 28, Portlanders this weekend can check out the next crop of young b-ballers with serious aspirations to be the next top NBA draft pick.
From Friday to Sunday, June 15-17, the Grant High School gym will host 64 elite youth basketball teams from as far away as Georgia and Ohio in the fifth annual Adidas Rose City Showcase. Eight teams in each of eight different age groups will compete in what has become a prestigious Northwest contest matching players who spend much of their summer traveling across the country, playing two or three games a day.
Tournament alumni include NBA All-Star Dwight Howard of Orlando, Atlanta's Josh Smith and Marvin Williams, as well as Lake Oswego High standout and future UCLA Bruin Kevin Love.
In addition to playing last year, a pudgier Love wowed the crowd in 2004, coming off his LO freshman year with a reverse-slam off a teammate's missed jumper in the Showcase. Also playing in that 2004 tourney was later Blazers shooting guard Martell Webster, then with the Seattle club team Friends of Hoop, coached by former Blazer Jim Marsh.
This year's tourney offers top-flight prep players like Jrue Holiday from North Hollywood, Calif.—ranked first by Scout.com among shooting guards and No. 3 overall. And it features 7-foot center B.J. Mullens from Cleveland, Ohio, who's committed to play at Oden's old school, Ohio State University.
But you don't have to be a college scout to enjoy the games.
The Rose City Showcase has become a boisterous community event in Northeast Portland. Stands are packed for the evening sessions, and the noise level is high thanks to a PA announcer on overdrive. Hardcore basketball followers and fair-weather spectators alike can get caught up in the rowdy atmosphere. And even untrained eyes can spot the youthful, green sparks that just might mature into draft-pick material.