The talented point guard, a Seattle U commit, has the Wildcats hanging with the usual Metro League powers.
A new vibe was felt Tuesday night at West Seattle High.
In the gymnasium stands was a platform for ESPN for the boys basketball game against O’Dea. The staging, including the network’s banner, was actually WSHS students dressed as announcers with headsets offering play-by-play of the action.
Surprised by the sight as he exited the locker room, West Seattle coach Keffrey Fazio gave a fist pump as he headed to the bench.
5 players to watch
Michael Porter Jr., Nathan Hale (6-9, Sr., F): The transfer from Missouri finished with 44 points and 20 rebounds in his Raiders debut. Porter, a UW commit, starts alongside brother Jontay, a 6-9 junior.
Daejon Davis, Garfield (6-4, Sr., SG): Quickly fills up a stat book, averaging 11 points, 5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.7 steals per game last season. Davis is signed to play at Washington.
Jaylen Nowell, Garfield (6-5, Sr., G): Electric player who can finish with either hand and score from any spot on the court. Nowell, an all-state selection last year, is signed to play at Washington.
Kevin Porter, Rainier Beach (6-5, Jr. W): No relation, but similarly entertaining in shot-selection and athleticism. One assist from a triple-double in season-opener with 28 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists.
Nate Pryor, West Seattle (6-2, Sr. PG): Arguably one of the best floor generals in the state, averaged 18 points and 5 assists per game last season. The Seattle University commit is also a solid defender.
Jadyn Bush, Bishop Blanchet (5-11, Sr., F): Nearly averaged a double-double last season with 18.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. The Harvard commit is regarded as one of the top players in the state.
Kallin Spiller, Lakeside (6-3, Sr., F): Fresh off leading the Lions to their first Class 3A state volleyball title, the Seattle University commit will continue to make noise on the basketball court.
Juanita Agosto, Garfield (5-7, Sr., PG): One of the most prolific shooters in the league, Agosto isn’t one-dimensional. She can also defend and looks for the smart pass to help teammates score.
Nirae Petty, Rainier Beach (5-8, Sr., G): A tough defensive matchup with her scoring ability. Was the Vikings’ second-leading scorer last year (12.0 points per game), also averaged 4.8 steals per game.
Grace Sarver, West Seattle (5-9, So., G): Wasn’t shy to make herself known as a threat as a freshman starter. Averaged 9.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 rebounds per game last year for the Wildcats.
“I wish I would have taken a picture,” said Fazio, who joined the Wildcats first as an assistant coach in 2008 before taking the head position in 2013. “When I first started coaching here, you had parents, but the whole (student) side was empty. Now our program is bringing some excitement.”
If it weren’t for Nathan Hale uniting top talent to garner a No. 17 national ranking for first-time coach Brandon Roy, a former NBA All-Star, West Seattle would be the talk of the Metro League. The Wildcats are on the rise due to point guard Nate Pryor and Fazio.
Pryor is a 6-foot-2 point guard committed to Seattle University. He’s worked on his outside shot to lead the Wildcats in scoring last season (18 points per game), but he is one of the best floor leaders in the state, averaging five assists last year.
Rainier Beach is the reigning Class 3A state champion. Nathan Hale has the superstars. Garfield is the defending league champ with two University of Washington commits. But few can make a good player feel like a star as Pryor has done since his freshman year at West Seattle.
“We’d be an average team without him,” said senior Yusuf Mohamed, a 6-8 starting forward. “He taught me how to play. I couldn’t even catch a ball at one point, minus making a layup. It’s funny, on pick-and-rolls, he’d throw the ball at the back of my head to get me to turn the right way.”
West Seattle placed sixth in the league last season at 16-10. The Wildcats lost in the district tournament and return key pieces from that team while adding transfer Simon Harris, a 6-1 junior guard.
Tuesday’s game against O’Dea was a glimpse of a special season brewing. The Irish placed second at the Class 3A state tournament last year, but lost its fifth consecutive game to the Wildcats, 57-46.
“We used to not be able to hang with them, now we are,” Pryor said of his school against the league’s top teams in Beach, Garfield and O’Dea. “We just have a bunch of leaders that want to be better and push each other in practice.”
Fazio agreed. However, he’ll still stop practice sometimes and point to the gym’s brick wall displaying the school’s championship banners as a reality check.
5 teams to watch
Nathan Hale: The Raiders won one Metro League game last season. Doubtful they’ll lose more than a few this year due to seven top-rated transfers and hiring of first-time coach Brandon Roy, a former NBA and Garfield all-star.
Rainier Beach: Lost Keith Smith (Oregon) and Sam Cunliffe (Arizona State) to graduation but the program is a basketball dynasty. Look for N’Keil Nelson to help Beach defend its Class 3A state title.
Garfield: Won the Metro League championship but placed third at state after a 66-61 loss to Rainier Beach in the semifinals. Talented roster now also has to contend with Nathan Hale to reach goals.
O’Dea: Irish were a year before schedule when they placed second at state last year. Guard Noah Williams was a standout freshman and will have to carry more of the offensive load to help O’Dea thrive.
Cleveland: An experienced Eagles team returns from a sixth-place finish in the Class 3A state tournament last season. A sleeper alongside West Seattle and Seattle Prep to disrupt league standings.
Bishop Blanchet: The Braves return star inside-out tandem of seniors Jadyn Bush and Taylor Chambers, who helped win the Metro League title last year. Avenging their first-round loss at state fuels their final act.
West Seattle: Lost league MVP Lydia Giomi (Oregon) to graduation. Youthful roster with just two upperclassmen will cause fits with their strong shooting and ball handling. Izzy Turk and Jazz Gayles are captains.
Cleveland: The Eagles are off to a rocky start due to injuries and loss of twins Ryshun and Ryshel Sampson. Winners of two state championships in the past four years, it’s best to not forget about Cleveland.
Garfield: The Bulldogs enter a new coaching regime after legend Joyce Walker resigned last spring. Lee Adams, who hasn’t coached since 2013 but has a career 200-88 record, inherits a team packed with potential.
Holy Names: Former star Emily McKenzie is the Cougars’ third coach since Lee Adams resigned in 2013. HNA hopes it found the leadership consistency needed to return to being completive in the Metro.
The boys basketball program hasn’t advanced to state since 2008 and the only placing was fourth in 1970 — which is also one of the two times it has even won the Metro League title.
The first was in 1925.
“We are a good team,” Fazio said. “We can play with anybody, but the games are a real struggle in the Metro. We haven’t hung a banner on our wall since 1970, so until we do something that warrants those accolades, we’re still the underdog.”