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WSU's NCAA Tournament-bound Isaac Jones: 'By far, he is the best basketball player in the history of Orting'

Jones went from unnoticed 5-foot-7 underclassman in high school to a 6-9 dynamo - and one of Cougars' best players

Followers of Seattle-Tacoma corridor high school basketball know Orting's path-to-least-resistance reputation.

The Cardinals not only have been traditionally the worst program in the 2A SPSL - they have been one of the least successful in the state.

So, imagine former athletic director Marty Parkhurst's surprise when somebody informed him an ex-Orting athlete was the NCAA Division I player of the week last January playing for Washington State University.


No way.

"We were all kind of blown away," Parkhurst said.

Isaac Jones' story does just that as he now prepares to play in the NCAA Tournament with the Cougars, facing Drake in the opening round Thursday in Omaha, Nebraska.

Jones came to Orting as a pogo-stick 5-foot-7 teenager from Spanaway. He held a pleasant demeanor, but never said much. On occasion, after Parkhurst spent time with football players in the weight room, he'd go over to the gymnasium and hear a bouncing sound. It was Jones getting up perimeter shots.

And yet, in games, Jones often blended into the background.

"He was a typical player where you'd see he had a lot of talent," said John Miller, an assistant coach at Orting at the time. "But he didn't have that push - or it was hard to get it out of him."

Yet, he continued to grow, which was something former teammate Travis Miller (John's son) remembered hearing about the first time he met Jones.

"I remember his mom (Ivy) talking to my dad, telling him that Isaac's uncles and a lot of people in the family were tall and that they played basketball," Travis Miller said.

"She said, 'He will be really special one day!'"

Unfortunately, the Cardinals weren't.

During Jones' three seasons, the team won a combined seven games - with 53 losses.

"For most part, we were just trying not to get blown out," Jones told Mitch Levy during an interview on Levy's "Unfiltered" podcast.

Even though as he grew - he graduated at 6-4 - and played more on the interior as a junior (2017) and senior (2018), he never received all-league honors, in any capacity.

"He wasn't like he is now," Travis Miller said. "He wasn't really a post-up guy ... and we ran a lot of 1-4 high sets (with Jones as high post) with movement.

"You could tell he was a playmaker and was always a good rebounder."

Jones told Levy that the only college to show interest in him coming out of high school was Pierce College, a two-year community college in Lakewood.

Eventually, Jones went to work at local Puget Sound Pipe & Supply, shipping off piping orders from the warehouse. By then, he had shot up to 6-7.

He still played pickup games at the YMCA, but college basketball was something only in the back of his mind, Jones told Levy.

His break came when Wenatchee Valley College gave him a tryout - and in three seasons, he became the most valuable player in the conference under Jeremy Harden, averaging 25.3 points and 13.2 rebounds per game. He even recorded a 61-point scoring effort (after never posting a 20-point game in high school).

In 2022, Jones signed with Idaho - and was voted the Big Sky Conference newcomer of the year.

And now at 6-9, and a fifth-year senior at WSU? He is participating in March Madness.

"By far, he is the best basketball player in the history of Orting," Parkhurst said.