Padgett’s the best? I don’t think so |

Padgett’s the best? I don’t think so

Seeing the blue gym at South Tahoe High nearly sell out last Friday when David Padgett and the Reno Huskies came to town brought back memories of when the Vikings were responsible for drawing people away from their cozy spots near the fire to watch prep basketball.

Jerod Haase, Brian Bruso and the rest of the Vikings from the early 1990s didn’t play in front of as many packed houses as they should have, but local fans didn’t take their talents for granted. Their time with us was finite, just as it is with Padgett less than a month away from capping his spectacular high school career.

Since the departure of stars from STHS’s 1992 state championship team, I know I haven’t been as excited to attend a high school basketball game as I was on Friday night.

What made the evening extra special was STHS coach Derek Allister’s pregame proclamation that Padgett may be the best player in Nevada prep history.

I may be biased, and I know Allister isn’t since he was coaching in the college ranks at the time, but I’ll always consider Haase as the best player I’ve seen in these parts.

Before moving to South Lake Tahoe in 1990, I had the pleasure of watching Shon Tarver lead Santa Clara of Oxnard to a CIF title in 1989-90. Tarver went on to play for UCLA before an undistinguished pro career in the CBA, USBL and various stops outside the U.S. Tarver played with such grace and athleticism that he was mesmerizing — so effortless.

I thought he was the best prep player I’d ever seen, but my opinion changed a year later when I saw Haase play for the first time. His baseline-to-baseline hustle and energy far exceeded what Tarver expended on the court. He got the most from his ability and those around him because he played each game like it was the last.

There were some pretty special players to come along during Haase’s era and since then, like Booker T. Washington, Ron Riley, Prince Fowler, Lance Buoncristiani and Matt Seibrandt.

Obviously, Padgett belongs in that talented group somewhere, but at the top? I don’t think so.

I like the way he moves to the basket and finds an open teammate, but he wasn’t nearly as dominant as I expected. He had 14 points, nine rebounds and six blocks in the Huskies’ 41-27 victory over the Vikings.

The 6-foot-11 Padgett’s ability to intimidate players into altering their shots is a genetic gift and a product of being 10 inches taller than most of the players on the court. He should dominate the defensive end, especially since he spends a large part of the time strategically positioned underneath the basket, waiting to swat away the shots like campers who left the bug spray at home and are being eaten alive by mosquitoes.

Padgett’s ability to dictate play on both ends of the court is why Allister thinks the highly coveted center is the best the state has seen.

“Not only can he score, but he changes the face of the game at the other end,” Allister said. “The (Julian) Hatcher kid (at Wooster) is a great scorer, but he can’t affect the game as much at the other end, and David can.”

But Padgett’s teams have never won anything beyond a league title. Zone and state titles remain elusive, something Padgett could change next month.

But as we’ve seen with Hall of Famers and legends, they are usually judged by how successful their teams were. Haase’s teams won zone championships his junior and senior seasons and advanced to the state finals twice as well.

Without a doubt, the players around him were better, but I believe Haase made them all reach their potential because of the standard he set on and off the court.

Interestingly, it won’t be the last time these Nevada basketball legends will be compared. Next year, Padgett will play for Roy Williams at Kansas, where Haase starred from 1994-97.

Crowd doesn’t want to leave

Allister got a kick out of the near-capacity crowd Padgett and his own improving team attracted Friday. He also appreciated that fans remained in their seats until the final buzzer despite a double-figure deficit throughout the final quarter.

“It was fun to be there,” Allister said. “In fact, a couple got up to leave and everybody started getting on them for leaving.

“Reno coach (Pete Padgett) told me afterward that this is what high school basketball should be, with the crowds, some atmosphere and some good players on the court.”

— Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or

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