A lot of high-school basketball teams wish they had one big guard with deep shooting range, nice handles, leadership and the ability to finish at the rim.
Not all teams are as fortunate as the Garfield High boys squad, ranked No. 2 in Class 3A.
The Bulldogs possess not just one, but two angular, high-rising guards with all the tools.
When: Wednesday through Saturday. Where: Tacoma Dome.
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Top story lines: Of the 12 state-tournament teams, five represent the Metro League and three are already in the state quarterfinals with first-day byes. It would be a stunner if Nathan Hale (26-0, RPI No. 1), the top-ranked team nationally, didn’t bring home the school’s first state title in the sport. The Raiders’ Michael Porter Jr., a McDonald’s All-American and University of Washington signee, presents matchup problems for every possible foe with his inside-outside game and averages of nearly 40 points and 15 rebounds. … Seattle Prep (18-8, RPI No. 11), Rainier Beach (20-8, RPI No. 8), West Seattle (20-6, RPI No. 3) and Garfield (21-5, RPI No. 2) give depth to the loaded Metro punch in the state field. … Of the non-Metro schools, Lincoln of Tacoma (25-0, RPI No. 5) stands the best chance of upsetting Hale’s title bid in Friday’s 7:15 p.m. semifinals.
Top players: Michael Porter Jr., Nathan Hale, 6-9, F, Sr.; Jaylen Nowell, Garfield, 6-5, G, Sr.; Daejon Davis, Garfield, 6-4, G, Sr.; Kevin Porter, Jr., Rainier Beach, 6-5, G, Jr.; Kahlil Shabazz, Rainier Beach, 5-10, G, Sr.; P.J. Fuller, Nathan Hale, 6-3, G, So.; Nate Pryor, West Seattle, 6-1, G, Sr.; Collin Welp, Seattle Prep, 6-9, C, Sr.; Erik Stevenson, Timberline, 6-4, G, Jr.; AJ Martinka, Stanwood, 6-6, G, Sr.; Emmitt Matthews Jr., Wilson (Tacoma), 6-7, F, Jr.; Chris Penner, Capital (Olympia), 6-1, G, So.; Trevante Anderson, Lincoln (Tacoma), 6-2, G, Jr.
Last: Since 1993, the Metro League has won all but five Class 3A state titles. Gig Harbor (1996), Mercer Island (1999), Mount Vernon (2001), Union (2009) and Lakes (2010) won the others.
A pair of University of Washington commits — Jaylen Nowell and Daejon Davis — finally get the chance to finish some basketball business for Seattle’s Central Area. The two have played together showcasing their individual skills for their AAU team, Seattle Rotary.
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Now, it’s about repping family and their roots. Opponents just see matchup nightmares, but it’s more than that from the inside. It’s about the word “Legacy” on the back of the Garfield uniforms.
“It’s one thing playing with (Jaylen) in AAU, and that’s kind of like for our own selves, but coming here it’s doing for a whole school and Garfield represents an entire community for the Central Area,” Davis said. “Being able to play with Jaylen and these guys, I’m aware of the legacy on my back. It’s an honor and I’m trying live up to it every day and not take anything for granted.
“I didn’t get us here. There are so many people who have built this program to where it is today and I’m just trying to live up to the expectation.”
This year’s version, with Nowell and Davis leading the way, took care of the first order of business by beating Stanwood 83-76 on Saturday in a Class 3A regional game. Next up for the Metro League runner-up Bulldogs (21-5) is a 3A state-quarterfinal date Thursday with the winner of Wednesday’s loser-out first-round matchup of Bellevue and Rainier Beach.
This group, playing in arguably the state’s toughest league, faces a tough task in reeling in Garfield’s 14th state title.
“I’d put our three top teams (Nathan Hale, Garfield and Rainier Beach) against anyone in the nation,” Garfield coach Ed Haskins said.
Garfield’s guard tandem ranks high on a national scale as well. The scorer, Nowell, provides averages of 23 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals and Davis chimes in with 17 points, six rebounds, nine assists, four steals and two blocks per game.
The bond is unbreakable. The friendship began in second grade on the hardwood and will continue next winter just up the freeway as both begin their University of Washington basketball careers.
“I’m just glad I get to play with my brother again, this time in a Garfield uniform,” Nowell said of Davis’ transfer from Lakeside before the 2015-16 season. “Playing with (Davis) at Rotary, we built a special bond that nobody can break. When I heard he was coming (in 2015) to play with me in high school, it was a great feeling that day.
“We want to do this for our community. They have helped me become who I am and who he is. We’ve been playing together so long, we really know what each other is going to do. When we’re out there on the court, it’s like I’m playing with another one of me.”
The 6-foot-5 Nowell played all four years on the Garfield varsity. The 6-4 Davis, who committed then decommitted and then recommitted to the Huskies before signing day, has been a Bulldog the last two seasons after beginning his career at Lakeside.
The two have meshed splendidly and complement each other willingly. The explosive guards play similarly, with attacking offensive styles and timely passes.
“I’m know I’m way more blessed than 95 percent of the coaches to have two players like that who were recruited by coaches all around the country,” Haskins said. “Jaylen and Daejon are special. That’s no secret. It’s nice to have two guards who can get to the rim like they can. It’s also a special chemistry.”
Davis and Nowell have spent countless hours playing basketball.
“There’s not a number for that,” Nowell said. “It’s like infinity. I play with [Daejon] all the time.”
Those hours will keep growing for the Bulldogs’ duo next season as Huskies.
“It’s going to be fun,” Nowell said. “Playing with him as a kid and seeing us grow is just crazy.”
Last ride as Bulldogs
Here are the state titles second-ranked Garfield hopes to add to this weekend at the Class 3A state tournament in the Tacoma Dome. Year Class 2015 3A 2014 4A 1998 4A 1991 4A 1987 4A 1986 4A 1983 4A 1980 4A 1978 4A 1974 4A 1962 4A 1961 4A 1955 4A