Brandon Roy and Nathan Hale high school just made history Friday when Roy led the team to its first Seattle Metro League boys basketball championship in 25 years. That and the fact that Roy’s Nathan Hale dominated his alma mater Garfield, 91-58, must have made the achievement that much sweeter.
Nathan Hale is a now a perfect 22-0 and a Top 10 nationally-ranked high school basketball program, a feat accomplished in Roy’s first season as the school’s head coach and a drastic turnaround from last year’s 3-18 record.
Nathan Hale also has one of the top players in the country in Michael Porter Jr., who poured in a game-high 39 points and will attend Roy’s college alma mater at the University of Washington in the fall.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys,” Roy said. “It was a special night for Nathan Hale.”
Since Nathan Hale had beaten Garfield by a narrow margin of 75-69 in their last meeting on Jan. 24, hype surrounding the matchup was amplified. Tickets were sold out two hours before tipoff and local celebrities including Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer were in attendance.
But any chance of Garfield pulling off an upset quickly disappeared as Porter Jr. and his younger brother Jontay dominated on the floor. At the half, Nathan Hale led 49-16 and never let up with stifling defense and an efficient offense.
With the way his team moved the ball and pushed the pace on rebounds and turnovers to get easy baskets in transition, the basketball acumen of Nathan Hale’s players became evident. It was a testament to good coaching, which considering Roy’s NBA pedigree isn’t surprising. At least that’s how Boston Celtics All-Star and former Washington Huskies star Isaiah Thomas sees it.
“B. Roy has always been a basketball smart guy,” Thomas said after the Celtics defeated the Blazers 120-111 in Portland Thursday. “I’m not surprised he’s doing what’s he doing with coaching.”
But how Roy ended up at Nathan Hale and the formation of the team’s roster is a bit surprising.
Roy’s sensational yet brief six-year NBA career was cut short in 2013 due to persisting knee issues. He will always be remembered as a Trail Blazers great as Roy played five seasons for the franchise, was a three-time All-Star and ushered in a new era in Portland following the troubling “Jail Blazers” years.
In retirement, Roy did some Seattle sports radio and also worked in real estate and financial management. But he had the desire to return to basketball, only this time as a coach.
Not wanting to be an assistant, Roy began to seek out head coaching opportunities and one such existed at Hale. And seemingly as soon as Roy took the job, Hale’s roster was transformed as seven players including the Porter brothers transferred to the school.
Seattle public schools have an open enrollment policy, which allows students to transfer to any school within the city. The highly-touted Porter brothers had just moved to Seattle from Missouri after their father, Michael Porter Sr., was hired as an assistant coach at Washington. The brothers are homeschooled, but since they live in Hale’s school zone, they can participate in the school’s athletic program. While the Washington connection seems like it came into play here, Roy has dismissed this idea.
“I never spoke to Michael or Jontay or anybody until September of this year, when I got here, way after I took the job,” Roy said on the Dave “Softy” Mahler Show in January. “The stories of Brandon Roy recruiting those kids or any other kids is just totally wrong.”
Roy’s name recognition, however, can’t be denied.
Roy, as Thomas puts it, is “a big mentor in the Seattle area,” so it is understandable that players would want to play for him. And their trust in Roy is paying off. Roy has transformed Nathan Hale into a basketball powerhouse, making his retirement and transition into the high school coaching scene seem special.
“Going 22-0 in your first 22 games is a special feeling,” Roy said. “I wanted to win the city championship and I’m just extremely proud of our guys. The team’s been great to me. I’m a happy man.”