Saturday, February 22, 2014

Rainier Beach and Basketball Greatness

Interesting story from The Classical (an independent sports website) about Rainier Beach High School and its history of basketball dominance.

Locally, it's known as the best place to get Vietnamese food. It is perhaps less well known as an astonishingly fertile cradle of basketball talent, although it's that, too. This is a place that has produced more current NBA players than just about any other place on Earth—as many as Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx combined.

This jumped out at me:

Those most recognizable student is 6’7” senior and Louisville commit Shaqquan Aaron, who moved all the way from California to go to high school at Beach. Strange as it this seems if framed in a non-basketball context, such a thing would have been entirely unthinkable a few years ago.

 This, too:


As something of a last-ditch attempt to turn things around, the school began offering classes from the prestigious International Baccalaureate program, a route that had actually found relative success at similarly ailing schools elsewhere. Though admittedly a small sample size, test scores and enrollment have shown slight improvement in the years since adding the program, and, according to a recent article in the Seattle Times, “95% of juniors at Beach are taking at least one IB class.”


The newly strengthened emphasis on academics is evident in the pregame Senior Night festivities for the senior cheerleaders. Each girl is announced by her name, where she will be studying next year, and what the focus of her study will be – answers include radiology, anesthesiology nursing, and biochemistry. For a school that continues to struggle to move its students successfully through 4 years within its walls, the focus is noticeably and admirably beyond the confines of both the high school and the neighborhood.

5 comments:

Kathi said...

That final paragraph is so exciting!

I was in the first cohort of a new IB program brought to a school that was facing dwindling enrollment and was not thriving academically. It is amazing how much it changed the school. I am not sure how I feel about the IB program as a whole, but that is a pretty cool advantage of it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Kathi, thanks for letting us know an insider's view.

Catherine said...

I think any school, business, program, entity, or community can be successful with a FOCUS. It's the "bright shiny object" syndrome that dilutes and weakens any effort. IB is a way to focus efforts. It could have been real language immersion, it could have been STEM, it could have been probably 10 other things. The challenge, will be maintaining that focus - to the exclusion of whatever the latest available bright shiny object being sold.

Anonymous said...

I'm just glad to hear the good news about academics and focus at the Beach.

I think it is astounding that a family would move to another state because of basketball, but I guess there are people who do that when their children have any kind of exceptional talent.

Solvay Girl

apparent said...


Rainier Beach High School is producing a long string not just of great basketball players, but also of great young adults who know what it takes to conquer adversity, and who will then help others do so too.

NBA star Jamal Crawford's daily commitment to his old high school is one example.

Another I personally witnessed over and over again began in a UW game when the lowly and downtrodden Husky men's team who had lost almost every game were suddenly inspired by the huge talent and resolve of 5'8" Nate Robinson to make an astonishing comeback, followed by a long unbeaten streak and successive trophies to make UW a college basketball destination. Robinson's against the odds story also graced his fine NBA career.

For the powerful impact of girls' high school basketball, the best inside account are the inspiring book and movie the Heart of the Game recounting the rise of the Roosevelt Roughriders under their eccentric coach Bill Resler.