02 February 2011
On a summer scouting trip two years ago down in California, University of Portland assistant coach Eric Jackson took note of a short aggressive point guard and now the rest of the West Coast Conference is finding out why.
Actually, Coach Jackson was in the area to see another basketball player, but after watching the 5'9 Tim Douglas run the point for Mayfair High School, Jackson knew he'd be back for a special trip to specifically scout Douglas.
"He had scored 38 points the game before, so I knew I had to go see him play. It was the playoffs - he might have had 8 points going into the fourth quarter - and then it's like a switch went off," Jackson told Beyond the Beat.
"He really made some unbelievable plays - Tim hit a couple shots, was driving past guys, getting in the paint, and ended up making the game winning layup with like two seconds left. That made an impression on me."
Now, the freshman point guard for the Portland Pilots continues to impress.
On Monday, Douglas was named was named the West Coast Conference men's basketball co-player of the week, sharing the honor with Saint Mary's senior guard Mickey McConnell, after Douglas notched two career starts with a combined 40 points, 7 rebounds and 10 assists to help Portland beat San Diego and St. Mary's.
"Before, it was more about picking my spots and seeing where I fit in," explained Douglas, who is averaging 7.9 points per game in 21 games played. "But now, I'm getting more comfortable as the season goes on and I'm starting to know when I can go and when to slow up. It's getting a little easier but I have a long way to go."
Believe it or not, Douglas has already come a long way. At Mayfair High School in Lakewood, Ca., Douglas started playing on the varsity team as a junior, and by his senior year, led the Suburban League in scoring (20.2) and assists per game (5.6), while also grabbing 3.4 rebounds per game.
As an undersized point guard, you can imagine the knocks that come with the territory. But with Douglas, make sure not to confuse a lack of height with the size of his heart to play the game and run a team. It's one of the facets of Douglas' game that Coach Jackson has been impressed with since seeing him play and even now for the Pilots.
"I went back and told Coach (Eric) Reveno, 'he's little and doesn't shoot it great, but he's got what it takes to make a basketball player good'," Jackson remembered.
"It's stuff you can't teach. And he was good from a body language stand point too. You can't tell if he missed his last eight, or hit five in a row. Temperment for a point guard is very important and that's what he has. You have to have a steady force as a point guard."
Last Saturday, Douglas was forced to grow up fast.
Against #24 ranked St. Mary's, Douglas matched-up against all-everything Mickey McConnell, and while McConnell went for 32 points, Douglas was proud that he kept the Gaels point guard to a mere two assists. For Douglas, what matters most was that the Pilots got the win.
Just like Douglas putting the ball on the floor, he was quick to deflect any personal praise.
"This wasn't my game, it's our game. It's our game," said Douglas, who finished with 26 points, 4 assists, and was 4-4 from beyond the arc in the upset win over St. Mary's at the Chiles Center.
"This is a team thing and every game we preach aggressive, confident and together and we were all three. I think people think that I can't shoot, and there's been times when I haven't hit my shot. But when I'm open and get my feet set, I know I can knock it down."
Douglas' outside shot will surely improve with more playing time and as he finds his offensive groove in a tough WCC, but when it comes to getting into the paint, Douglas is straight fearless.
"Tim was great and the plan was to push the ball. That was key. We keep telling him to drive, and drive, and just go at them. We wanted him to get to the rim and we were willing to live with some turnovers," added Coach Reveno.
Portland Pilots' senior guard Jared Stohl has his own take on Douglas' game.
"Man, I hate guarding that guy in practice," Stohl laughed. "He's just such a tough cover, so quick, but I really love playing with Tim."
Coach Jackson chalks-up Douglas' on-court maturation at this point to just being a freshman, with some up days and some down days.
"I see him growing more as a player, but it's going to depend on his committment to working at it and anticipating how the game is being played," said Jackson.
"With his height, sometimes that puts a premium on being good. You can't just be okay. When you are 5'9, you have to shoot it great. And you can't just be okay when you get into the land of the giants. He's shown that work ethic. Now it just has to continue for the next three years."
Away from basketball, Douglas is still settling in with campus life in Portland as one of seven freshman for the Pilots. It's been a bit of a tough transition being away from home and there are times when Douglas, who is studying biology, gets a little homesick.
Thankfully, the game is never too far away.
"When you are playing basketball, you don't think about it too much. It's a little difficult with juggling ball, but I know I have to get my basketball first. You can't play basketball forever," Douglas said with a smile.
Douglas shouldn't be too hasty about the playing "basketball forever" part, even if any talk of turning pro remains three years in the future. Because right now with Douglas running the point for the Pilots, seeing is believing.
"When he's at his best, he's that good," said Coach Jackson.
photo: portland pilots.com