[This originally ran in my April 2010 Basketball Times column.]
In its Feb. 22 issue, Sports Illustrated ran an excellent piece on the Seattle basketball scene, examining the hotbed of talent that has come from the 206 area code.
There are problems with basketball development in our country, but I always come back to the fact that kids want to learn to play the game the right way and get better. If the system is screwed up, there’s plenty of blame to go around, but it is definitely not the players’ fault.
When I first started covering basketball issues over 10 years ago, I met Albert Hall and Jim Marsh from Friends of Hoop, a group featured prominently in the article. Jim Marsh is an incredible human being – he still runs FoH, which was originally founded and funded by George Karl. Hall and Marsh remain good friends.
The article is a must-read.
Two statistics stick out:
1) “In the first 30 years of the McDonald’s High School All-Star Game Washington had only three participants: Kim Stewart of Seattle’s Ballard High in 1974 (when the game was called the Capital Classic), Quin Snyder of Mercer Island in 1985 and Luke Ridnour of Blaine in 2000. But since 2004, there have been nine McDonald’s All-Americans from the Seattle metro area alone, including (Josh) Smith, who will play in the game this year.”
2) “The Seattle area has 13 players in the NBA, tied for fifth among the country’s metro areas even though it's only 15th in population.”
Why has Seattle enjoyed such a cluster of success? Clearly, this incredible level of success is by design, rather than by accident. My take: The Seattle basketball community wants its own to succeed. If you’re a basketball player from the 206 area code, you belong to a special fraternity no matter what school you go to or what team you play for, from high school to college to the pros. Seattle is a great model for others to follow, especially at the youth level.
Step one: Read the Sports Illustrated article. Twice. Step two: Talk to Jim Marsh and his current and former players. They are a great model for others to follow. And listen. Step three: Help your basketball brothers, even if you compete against them.