Growing up in Oregon, I watched many talented high school athletes work their way to college and, in rare cases, professional leagues. One of those athletes stood out above the rest.
This particular athlete played basketball at Lake Oswego, a high school that traditionally boasts some of the best basketball and football teams in the state.
The 6-foot, 10-inch post player averaged 34 points and 17 rebounds as a senior during the 2006-07 season. His offensive output helped the Lakers make their third-straight appearance in the state championship game, where they lost to future Duke Blue Devil Kyle Singler and South Medford High School.
A couple of months earlier, I attended one of this player’s games for the first time. I was expecting to see the five-star recruit have a dominant performance against Rex Putnam High School, but I instead saw him shatter a backboard on a breakaway dunk just a couple of minutes into the game.
The game was postponed with Lake Oswego leading 4-0. Administrators at Putnam were not happy about the incident — the culprit later said they wanted to bill his family for the shattered backboard — but it ended up being another display of talent in what has become a successful basketball career for Kevin Love.
Every time I see Love make a play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team he was traded to from Minnesota in 2014, I remember watching him shatter that backboard. Love was paid $21.17 million by the Cavs in 2017, and I’m sure that would be enough to cover a replacement if he breaks another one in the future.
But what really impressed me and the thousands of others who watched Love develop in high school was his natural talent. It was as if Love was born to play basketball. There was almost no stopping him as he established his presence in the post against some of the state’s best teams.
I seldom felt that way about other high school athletes until I moved to North Carolina and had the chance to see Zamir White play football.
I’m sure anyone who watched White play during his four years at Scotland understood why he eventually became the nation’s top running back prospect. He was almost impossible to catch at times, and his knowledge of the game made his superb athleticism much more intimidating for opponents.
White rushed for 2,086 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior. Those numbers don’t do justice to his high skill level that can be seen in his various highlight films.
Football fans in Scotland County know what Zamir White is capable of, which is why it was heartbreaking to see his freshman season at the University of Georgia come to an end after he tore his left ACL during a preseason scrimmage last month.
White’s senior season at Scotland concluded in a similar fashion when he tore his right ACL last November.
Players of White’s caliber don’t come around often. Even Herschel Walker, the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner and all-time leading rusher at Georgia, understood that when he reached out to him with a motivational message following White’s most recent injury.
Are we ever going to see Zamir White run through defenses on Saturdays? Hopefully. Is he ever going to be the same player he was when he won the National High School Football Player of the Year Award as a senior in high school?
The rest of the Southeastern Conference should hope not.
Brandon Tester can be reached at [email protected] or 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.