Portland (OR) Jefferson might not have captured a state title this season. But
if you listen to head coach Marshall Haskins, the future is extremely bright
for the Democrats.
"We have ten unbelievable players in our program that arguably are as good as
the guys we have playing right now," said Haskins. "Our underclassmen are
very, very good. It's taken everything I've had to stay with the older group
because the younger group is so talented."
The older group Haskins refers to is his graduating senior class, including
star shooting guard and Missouri signee Thomas Gardner, as well as stalwarts
such as Isaiah Allen, Demarcus "Boomer" Carney, Jerae Nelson (Weber State - football) and Ray Peterson. But as those players move on, Jefferson's younger players -
some of whom got extensive playing time on this year's varsity squad - will
step into the spotlight.
Some of the top returnees include:
Brian Morris (right), a 6-7, 210 pound post from the Class of 2005. Morris will be
Jefferson's big man of the future. He has grown two inches over the past year,
and Haskins thinks that Morris may still have two to three inches more to add
to his height. While it's pretty clear he still is getting comfortable with
his body, it's also easy to see the raw ability that Morris has. He runs the
floor very well, has a knack for being around the ball on the boards, and
surprisingly has a feathery shooting touch. Defensively, Morris also has the
potential to be a dominating shot-blocker. With added strength and continued
work on his skills, the sky may be the limit for this developing big man.
Lathen Wallace, a 6-3, 180 pound shooting guard from the Class of 2006.
Wallace may very well take over Gardner's spot as the team's go-to guy.
Wallace could be the top player in his class in the entire state of Oregon. He
spent the entire season on the Jefferson varsity squad, not only making the
team but seeing plenty of playing time and averaged over seven points a game.
Haskins wasn't afraid to use the young freshman in critical situations in the
late stages of games, and Wallace showed maturity on the court beyond his
years. He has shooting range out beyond the three-point line, and has the
ability to create his own shot off the dribble. Don't be surprised if Wallace
explodes as a sophomore.
Mac Hopson, a 5-9, 130 pound point guard from the Class of 2005. Hopson
started most of the year at the point for the Demos, and according to Haskins,
may have been the team's most improved player at season's end. The son of the
University of Idaho's all-time scorer Phil Hopson may still look as if he's
still in grade school, but don't let his baby face fool you - the kid can
definitely play. A very capable ball-handler, Hopson can hit long-range threes
and isn't afraid of taking the ball to the hoop amongst the trees. He more
than made his share of clutch plays during the state tournament. And given his
genes (father Phil is 6-5), he is certainly still growing physically.
Other names to watch for who will be promoted from Jefferson's undefeated
junior varsity and freshman squads include Nick Green, Marquise Hall, and
Most of Jefferson's younger players will get plenty of playing experience on
the AAU circuit, and several will play with Canaan Chapman's Inner City Players
team in the spring and summer months.
While Haskins is thankful for what the Class of 2003 gave him this season, he
is naturally very excited about what's in store for the Demos in coming years.
"I'm glad this year's team got fifth," said Haskins. "But we're not going to
be taking home fifth place trophies the next few years, I can guarantee that.
Jed Tai is a Senior Writer with Hoopville.com