Trophy hunting

By Paul Harder, The Observer January 02, 2014 07:14 am

The people of North Powder are lucky there’s not much to do in their small town. Otherwise, they might not know exactly who Marcus Pratt is.

Most people know the 6-foot-1 senior as a slasher on the basketball court. He runs the point guard position for a Badgers team that is 9-0 this season, and are coming off title run at the La Grande Optimist Christmas Classic. 

Pratt sort of stumbled on to the sport.

“I don’t know really how I got going Pratt said. “There’s just not much to do out here. So I went into the gym and started playing.”

Pratt began playing organized basketball in the fourth grade traveling to Baker City for YMCA basketball. Basketball also became a family affair.

“My family has always supported me,” Pratt said. “Whatever it took, they helped me out. Traveling to new shoes,my family was behind me 100 percent.”

Part of that family support came during live basketball action. If it wasn’t the typical 5-on-5 pickup game, then he was honing his skills against his big brother, Jordan. Jordan graduated from Powder Valley in 2009, and was an excellent player in his own right.

“He was so tall and tough to beat,” Pratt said. “Jordan got the best of those matchups. But, today. I don’t know. I think I’d take him.”

Jordan, a 6-foot-7 post, was a prolific shot blocker for the Badgers, tallying seven the 2009 state championship game against Mohawk. A game that Powder Valley won 73-59.

Sitting in the stands taking it all in was Marcus. He’d seen what Jordan could do first hand, and got to witness his brother put on quite a performance aside from the dominant shoot blocking. Jordan also had 12 points and 19 rebounds in the game.

“It was awesome to watch him bring home the state title,” Pratt said. “There was so much emotion sitting in the stands watching him play at his best in the most important game. I went home and tried to recreate some of the shots from that game.”

Marcus honed his skills as a guard in those sessions against his brother. He became fearless attacking the rim. A lot like his child idol, Laker guard Kobe Bryant. From the time he was a freshman to this season, he’s attacked the rim without any discretion. But, this season, more of those drives are leading to baskets.”

“It definitely helped,” Pratt said, about playing against his brother. “He was quick and so good at blocking shots. Nothing really scares me anymore. I’ve just worked harder on my touch around the rim.”

Pratt is one of the few younger brothers that is trying to follow in his brother’s footsteps — he’s eyeing a state trophy. The postseason has been anything but kind to the Badgers though. As a sophomore, Powder Valley went into the Old Oregon League postseason tournament as the No. 1 seed but didn’t make it out of the tournament. The Badgers went 21-4 last season, but were bounced in the opening play-in game by Sherman. So, now it’s championship or bust.

“It’s been a dream since I saw Jordan win it all,” Pratt said. “We’ve got a great team this season. There’s no selfishness on this team. That’s something that’s helping us this year.”

It’s a senior-laden team. Pratt and senior Quinn Stephens return as first-team all league players from last year. Senior post Tyler Robinson was a second-team selection. Fellow seniors Chace Dixon and Jason Benites provide a lot of quickness on the perimeter. Tack on a couple post scoring options to team with Robinson in Logan Allen and Brock Jones, and there’s no surprise why this Badgers team is now No. 3 in the OSAA state rankings, and continuing to climb.

None of those things would matter without the right coach directing the traffic. And, for the Badgers, it’s a bit of controlled chaos.

“Coach (Kyle) Dixon lets us run,” Pratt said. “I like that so much more than walking the ball up the court. We have a lot of athletes out on the floor, and running allows us to play to our strength.”

Now to wait and see if those strengths will bring home a championship like his brother.