The Raiders, 15-0 and led by University of Washington recruit Michael Porter Jr., are the indisputable No. 1-ranked team in the country based on their resume. But with seven transfers, it’s not exactly a rags-to-riches story.
So, how do you feel about Nathan Hale High? What are your thoughts on the nation’s No. 1 basketball team playing right here in the 206?
When you think about the Raiders chopping down giants from sea to shining sea, what emotions do you experience? Because when it comes down to it, there really are only two options.
The first is utter joy. I mean … have you seen these guys play? This isn’t first-year coach Brandon Roy simply rolling out the basketball — this is a high-flyin’, full-court-pressin, pickin-and-rollin’ symphony.
Roy said before the season began that hype has never crowned a team a championship, that work is the only tool that can raise a banner. And based on the way this team has played through first half of the season, the Raiders haven’t wasted a millisecond of practice time.
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Three times this season Hale has taken on a team ranked in the nation’s top 25, and three times it has won. The first was against Metro League rival Garfield, which it beat by 23 points. The second was against Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, Calif., (ranked No. 1 at the time) which it beat by two. The most recent was against perennial power Oak Hill Academy — producer of Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Rajon Rondo, to name a few — which Hale beat by three.
Whether Hale (15-0) truly is the best team in the country remains a guess at this point, but based on its resume, a No. 1 ranking is indisputable.
Stirring the drink is the 6-foot-10 straw, Michael Porter Jr., the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruit according to ESPN. Porter signed a letter of intent to play at Washington in November and has been dazzling gymnasiums everywhere since.
Short of slashing the team buses’ tires, there isn’t really any way to slow the phenom, who can pull up from 24 feet just as easily as he can dunk from 12. It’s awesome. It’s beautiful.
Or … is it just plain artificial?
See, that’s the other way to feel about Nathan Hale basketball — that it’s a factory-direct shipment of ringers. The growth of this program is about as organic as a Hungry Man dinner.
Do you know how many transfers are on this team? Seven. Do you know what their record was last season? Try 3-18 overall and 1-14 in league.
You can praise Roy and his staff’s coaching ability all you want — a lot of it probably is deserved. But as far as rags to riches goes, this is the equivalent of seven All-Americans transferring to Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Actually, something like that might be fun at the college level. The NCAA is just a bunch of universities ruthlessly fighting for talent anyway, right?
Transferring is allowed, as Seattle public schools have open enrollment, but guys like Bart Brandenburg, former basketball coach at Roosevelt High, wonder if high school basketball programs should see similar college-like turnover on their rosters.
“It’s more than about just wins and losses,” Brandenburg said. “It’s about integrity, too.”
Look, nobody denies that Seattle is home to some of the best high-school hoops in the country. The past few years, Garfield and Rainier Beach provided one of the most intense hardwood rivalries you’ll find anywhere.
But when Garfield won a state title with six transfers in 2014, did that not feel manufactured? When Beach won last year’s title with two Pac-12 players that transferred in for their senior years, did that not feel a bit contrived? When programs around Puget Sound — including private schools who play by different rules — are constantly turning over personnel, does it not feel like the spirit of high-school hoops is compromised?
Maybe that sounds like high-horse moralizing. Maybe that’s just the way it is these days. And maybe these schools provide a level of exposure for students they wouldn’t have otherwise, all while satisfying Seattleites’ ravenous basketball jones. There certainly is an argument for that.
But the days of building a championship program from scratch is an antiquated thought around these parts. The road to a title, it seems, begins when the top players decide where they will join forces.
Hale is the No. 1 basketball team in the country and likely the best high-school squad Seattle has ever seen. So how do you feel about that?