Before I fill you in on AJ Lapray, a freshman basketball player at the University of Oregon, allow me to share a few opinions about the high school state tournaments.
I had the honor of attending the 6A OSAA State Tournament at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday and Thursday. On Saturday my son and I attended the 5A OSAA State Tournament at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene. Best time of the year for us no doubt – love it! The disappointment for me was the lack of attendance. I understand that it is a financial expense, but I think that if it were my school and I had a team that made it that far, I’d do whatever I could to be there to give them support.
I have asked some people, why is it we don’t see as many students at games anymore? You’d think that maybe the technology toys on the market might be a factor. Maybe there are more club sports and students will only support their sport. Schools in small towns will have more support because they have more community ties (everyone knows everyone). Those are just a few possibilities but the reality is traveling, parking, ticket price, and meals can add up to a very expensive trip.
Something has to be done to fill up the coliseums and make the state tournaments an entire week of excitement … not just the championship day. If it were me, I would allow students to get into games for only $3.00 and adults $5.00 with no reserved seating. Include a discount meal during weekdays. On Saturday, okay, now you can charge $12.00 for everyone and $17.00 reserved seating.
When my two boys played basketball at McNary High School I remember how the coaches (that didn’t make it to state) took their players to the state tournament one day to watch the games. One of my sons is a coach at McKay High School. He continues to take a group of boys every year. It’s a joy to give that opportunity to a kid that has never been to a place like the Moda Center. It broke my heart when he told me, I think we’re one of the last schools that still does this. I feel that coaches need to step up their game and do something for their underclassmen. It’s not a disappointment to be happy for the teams that earned that trip.
Now, back to AJ Lapray, who played basketball for Sprague High School and is now on the Oregon Duck basketball team. My son, Matt aka “Noza” invited me to go with him to watch Jefferson High School play against Churchill for the championship game. I had never been to Matthew Knight Arena, so I couldn’t pass that up. He worked with AJ last summer on basketball skills and shooting.
“Hey dad, do you want to watch the third-place game too? I’m working out AJ after that game,” Noza said.
I said, “yeah!” I couldn’t miss an opportunity like that. I was looking forward to an adventure that most people from around here don’t get.
At the beginning of the season Lapray was excited to start his career with the Oregon Ducks. In the early part of the season during practice he suffered a hip flexor injury. A group of muscles in front of the hip was the area that caused him a great deal of pain. AJ received treatment and therapy. He wanted to return to action quickly, but because he returned too soon he re-injured his hip flexor. It was very difficult for him – frustrating. He has not been able to play in any games yet.
“That was a hard thing to deal with. My entire career I had never been the one to sit and just watch. I’m applying for a medical red shirt, which means I’ll be able to red shirt this year and still have four years of eligibility,” Lapray said.
AJ is enjoying college and is doing very well – he has a positive outlook. He maintains a 3.5 GPA and is starting to train again. He is excited for his team, which will be heading to the NCAA Tournament.
There are benefits to red shirting. You get to learn the basketball program inside and out. It puts you ahead of the game for next year.
As we followed him into the Ducks’ training facilities inside Matthew Knight Arena, he gave us a little tour of the amazing place. There was an attendant watching at every hallway for security and clearance. They have a media room, film room, weight-lifting room, etc. Everything is top of the line – the most comfortable seats I’ve ever sat on. We walked into the two college-length full courts – I was in basketball heaven. AJ says that he talks to Phil Knight on occasions – they call him Uncle Phil.
AJ trained with Noza. They worked on shooting drills mostly – his shooting is getting better every day. The equipment manager came in with two Gatorades and water. Whatever the players need, he’s there for them.
“This is a great job – I enjoy being there for the players. There are four of us that have this job. We provide the players with any equipment they might need, shoes, uniforms, towels, drinks, etc. We have a great relationship with the players and coaches,” Patrick said.
This trip to Eugene was such a joy to me. We also got to watch two exciting high school games that went down to the wire. West Albany won the third-place game against Madison. Jefferson from Portland won the championship game against Churchill.
We wish AJ Lapray the best of luck and a speedy recovery from his injury. He has a promising career ahead of him. Go Ducks!