No. 1 Nathan Hale and No. 1 player Michael Porter Jr. to skip DICK's Nationals

No. 1 Nathan Hale and No. 1 player Michael Porter Jr. to skip DICK's Nationals

DICK'S High School Nationals

No. 1 Nathan Hale and No. 1 player Michael Porter Jr. to skip DICK's Nationals

Last weekend, Michael Porter Jr. accomplished his goal of winning two state titles in two separate states, leading Nathan Hale (Seattle) past Garfield (Seattle) 68-51.

The Raiders finished 29-0 and are ranked atop the USA TODAY Sports’ Super 25.

The epic run that was this season was enough for Porter, who’d led Father Tolton Catholic (Columbia, Mo.) to a state title last year before moving to Washington.

“I don’t feel like we have anything else to prove,” said Porter, a Washington signee who is ranked No. 1 overall in the ESPN 100.

The team had a meeting Friday and decided it would not participate in the DICK’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals in New York City from March 30-April 1. The meeting was first reported by The Seattle Times.

The decision comes despite Washington’s state association clearing the way for Hale to compete in the DICK’s Nationals.

“We respect their decision, but it’s the first time a team was eligible to play, with a McDonald’s All-American, that has declined the opportunity to play” said Rashid Ghazi of Paragon Marketing, which assembles the teams for the tournament. “We’ll have five other McDonald’s All-Americans there. While it’s disappointing, we have six teams in the top 10 (of the Super 25) all ready to play and a number of other teams in the top 25 that are calling us, wanting a shot to play.

“The tournament is bigger than any one player or any one team.”

Despite reports that Hale was not planning to go to DICK’S all along or decided in the immediate aftermath of winning the state title last Saturday, assistant coach Jamaal Williams said the program took its time in deciding.

“It was a hard decision for us to make,” Williams told USA TODAY High School Sports. “We juggled the decision back and forth. For a while, a lot of people wanted us to make the decision fast after the state tournament and we hadn’t had a chance to celebrate.

“It was definitely unchartered territory for them, to have four more weeks of practice. They felt like they had done enough to let the chips fall where they may on the national spotlight.”

Last year, Chino Hills (Chino, Calif.) finished the high school season unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the Super 25, but California Interscholastic Federation rules wouldn’t allow the team to play in the DICK’s Nationals.

“We’re undefeated, we beat teams like Oak Hill and Sierra Canyon then Garfield and Rainier Beach multiple times,” Porter said. “We don’t have anything to prove to anyone. We’ve proved it all season. Coach (Brandon) Roy pointed out that last year Chino Hills still won the national title and they didn’t play in it so we’re not worried about that.”

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Nathan Hale could still win the Super 25, especially if Oak Hill were to win the title. Any team that wins DICK’S will have at least three wins against Super 25 teams and likely more. Hale has two wins against teams that are ranked or were ranked at the time they played.

“We missed DICK’S Nationals once, the year we went to China,” Oak Hill coach Steve Smith said on Twitter. “April at DICK’S always crowns a deserving champion.”

Nathan Hale forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) stands with other starters at the bench in the final seconds of the second half of the Washington state boys’ 3A high school basketball championship (Ted S. Warren, Associated Press)

Porter also pointed out that he’d miss a full week of practice leading up to DICK’s Nationals since he’d be in Chicago participating in the McDonald’s All American Game festivities all week.

“That’s big to miss a full week of practice with your team right before a tournament like this,” Porter said. “It would’ve just been a lot to deal with because we’d have the biggest target on our backs as the No. 1 team.

“It would’ve been nice to play in it, but it doesn’t take away what we were able to accomplish all season. I’m not trying to disrespect whichever team ends up winning the DICK’s Nationals, but we feel like we’ve done enough to be the No. 1 team.”

Contributing: Jim Halley, USA TODAY High School Sports

Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY

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