Bittle prepares for basketball's return with trail runs, backyard hoops

Nate Bittle, who was recently named Maxpreps' Oregon State Player of the Year, won't let a closed gym keep him from getting his reps in.

Posted: Mar 23, 2020 5:50 PM
Updated: Mar 23, 2020 7:17 PM

CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — With the weight room and basketball gyms closed, Nate Bittle is still finding a way to compete. Between trail runs and one-on-one basketball in his backyard, he'll be ready when sports come back.

It starts early in the morning, just as the sun starts to peak over Mt. McLoughlin, at the trailhead of Upper Table Rock. From there, Nate and his dad, Ryan, get their workout started with a run to the end of the trail; about 3 miles out and back, gaining 760 feet in elevation on the way to the top.

Just because the scenery is beautiful doesn't mean running uphill for a mile and a half is fun.

"It's kinda cool to see the sunrise and everything, but the run up is horrible," Nate said after his morning run on Monday.

After the run at Upper Table Rock, the Bittles head home to rest their legs and relax. Soon after, they're in the backyard on their concrete half-court.

"It's a little bit different not being able to work out in a gym with a wood floor where I usually play at," Nate said while standing on his backyard court. "I mean, I never play in a backyard, but this is where me and my dad have to get it done."

They run multiple shooting drills, starting from up close under the basket back to high school- and college-level three-pointers. During the drills, Ryan will play defense, contesting Nate's shots near the hoop with physical play.

Ryan is a good coach to have in the house. He played college basketball at Oregon Tech under hall of fame coach Danny Miles in the 1990s. Ryan's backyard coaching has paid off but at the expense of losing most of the one-on-one competitions with Nate.

"The tide has definitely turned. But I try to give him as much competition as I can and be physical with him because the athletes he plays against are way better than I am," Ryan said with a smile. "So just trying to keep... him improving every day."

Both father and son are still fierce competitors when they play one-on-one. In Monday's late-morning showdown, Nate came away with a 5-3 win, calling his step-back jumper before executing it perfectly.

"What I say?" Nate said as he released the shot. Then, as the ball rolled around the rim and fell for game-point, Nate smiles at his dad and says, "I told you what I was doing!"

The fiery father-son competition ends with a smile, a chuckle from Ryan and a fist bump shared.

Nate's ready for basketball to be back.

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