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The Hardwood Invite poised to become Northwest’s next big boys basketball event after move to Portland

“We want to grab the best from Washington, the best from Oregon, and then obviously some national powerhouses”

When Ryan Menten and Dave Walker joined forces 15 years ago to found HoopSource, their goal was simply to provide youth basketball players in the Northwest an opportunity to play in organized leagues and tournaments to improve their game. 

Little could they have known that their enterprise would eventually blossom into one of the nation’s leading youth basketball organizations.

So, after the duo brought The Hardwood Invite to their hometown of Portland, Oregon, this winter after holding the first two editions in the Seattle area, don’t underestimate them when they say their goal is to build the tournament into one of the region’s top attractions.

“The biggest difference between us and other tournaments is, obviously, we’re a newer tournament in the area,” Menten said. “We have major respect for the Les Schwab Invitational, which we both played and coached in, so we’re trying to be different. 

“Especially starting in Seattle, we’re trying to incorporate more of a mix of Washington, a mix of Oregon, a mixture of an equal amount of teams, and then national powerhouses like a Smoky Hill, a Rancho Solano that have a strong tradition. We want to grab the best from Washington, the best from Oregon, and then obviously some national powerhouses.”

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The result in their first year at Parkrose High School in Northeast Portland was a solid first go-round of the three-year event, won by hometown Roosevelt in a clash with Eastside Catholic of Sammamish, Wash., that featured two Division I prospects — tournament MVP Terrence Hill Jr. (Utah State) of the Roughriders and Virginia signee Jacob Cofie of the Crusaders.

The field definitely featured the blend that Menten and Walker hope becomes a Hardwood Invite staple. The Oregon teams were led by Roosevelt and fourth-place finisher South Medford, while Washington boasted Eastside Catholic, fifth-place finisher Davis, and trophy finalists Camas and Annie Wright. 

The out-of-area contingent featured Smoky Hill of Colorado, which placed third, and consolation champion Rancho Solano of Arizona.

Menten and Walker believe having the tournament anchored in the Portland area will make it an easy sell to teams looking for a pre-Christmas challenge.

“Portland is a better destination and a better opportunity to play,” Menten said. “We believe the Rose City is obviously branded, but it’s just a better opportunity for teams to travel into and to have surrounding opportunities to go to attractions, such as the Nike employee store and everything that encompasses the city.” 

They also touted how close Parkrose is to Portland International Airport, which would be another selling point to national teams. In addition, with Pacific Office Automation one of the tournament’s presenting sponsors — as well as a title sponsor of the Holiday Classic girls tournament a week later — the possibility of a tie-in for national schools’ boys and girls teams is there. 

The tournament started at Auburn High School in 2021, then moved to Garfield in the Central District of Seattle last year.

Parkrose coach Donell Morgan would love to make his facility the tournament’s permanent home. Morgan also is executive director of Elevate Oregon, a youth mentoring organization in the Parkrose neighborhood, and he believes the Hardwood Invite could become an important part of the neighborhood’s culture.

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“When you look at the Capitol City down in Salem, you look at Les Schwab in Hillsboro, it’s only fitting that you have something on the east side of Portland,” Morgan said. “We were honored to be able to host this. You’ve got a lot of great teams out there. 

“We’ve never hosted something like this. Whether I coach at Parkrose for another five years or another year, to say that I was able to be part of getting something going here in this neighborhood and at this school would be definitely a legacy move for me.”

The Broncos went 1-3 at the Invite, winning their finale 60-47 against Tigard, and Morgan said just the experience of playing in the tournament could do wonders for his program.

“You know, we don’t get a lot of kids that are highly recruited or get a lot of the notoriety as far as playing on those big-time AAU teams,” he said. “This is their opportunity to play in front of and against some of the better players in Washington, Colorado and Oregon.

“They all have dreams and aspirations of playing college basketball, but this is your first test. Whether it’s junior college, D3, D2, Division I, you get to measure up against some of these guys. And, again, for us and our kids, to watch these games, to be a part of it, they’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.”

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