ASHLAND, Ore. -Five years ago SOU assistant basketball coach Brant Minor put together a 17-under summer league team for local high school basketball players. It started as a way of recruiting talent from around Oregon to eventually join the Raiders, but it turned into a whole lot more than that.
“I got approached by Brant at one of the games,” South Medford senior Cameron English said, “and he asked me if I wanted to play on the Oregon Stars.”
“He just kind of came to my dad and asked him if I wanted to play for the Stars team,” South Medford senior Brayden Massey said.
“Brant came and talked to me after one of my summer ball games my freshman year and was wondering if I’d be interested in playing for the Stars,” Phoenix senior Jason Wyncoop said.
The prestige of playing for the Oregon SDtars may be lost on some sports fans in the Rogue Valley but not to those in the basketball community.
“It’s fun for me to see the kids develop and go back to their high schools and do well and be successful for their high school coaches,” Stars head coach Brant Minor said.
Jason Wyncoop, Brayden Massey and Cameron English are three of four Southern Oregon players currently on the Stars’ roster. St. Mary’s Connor Vinyard is the other. After those four, however, there are players from Portland, Salem and even Vancouver.
“It’s been a benefit for everyone else to play with better people,” Wyncoop said.
“It’s a fun time because everyone’s that much better than everyone else,” Massey said. It’s just fun to play with them.”
It’s fun, and it helps the players get better. From May to July, the Stars travel around the Northwest competing in tournaments against some of the best competition in the country. Brayden and Jason are in their second years with the Stars, and both showed dramatic improvement with their high school teams this past season.
“Just going around, traveling around the West Coast, playing with really great talent, has really increased my basketball skill greatly,” Wyncoop said.
That is the main focus of those playing: getting better, but a secondary focus is getting noticed.
“I hope the kids get exposure,” Minor said. “They get the chance to play in front of college coaches.”
That includes Minor himself.
“Brant’s an assistant coach at SOU so I was like, “It’s got to be a good team,'” Massey said.
“Having a college coach as your coach, it really just makes you want to step up and be the best player you can be,” Wyncoop said.
Since its inception five years ago, 28 former Stars became college basketball players Five are with SOU.
“It’s kind of been a nice little pipeline getting the top players from the region and the area to come in. We signed another one this year.”
It’s a pipeline that is becoming more and more elite every year, which is a win-win for Minor, SOU and those young hoopsters who are asked if they’d like to play for the Stars.