6-9 Jeff Potter Fits In Great At Redmond High
It is the American ethic. Each generation gives a little more to the next. The new generation does a little better than the old.
Mike Potter grew up with an interest in sports, but not much guidance. He decided to become a basketball player when he was a teen-ager. It was a little too late.
For as much as tried, he was mostly getting cut.
``My dad was always working, he wasn't able to teach me a lot,'' Potter said. ``There were a lot of things I didn't learn, like how to dribble with both hands. I was strictly a one-handed dribbler.''
Which brings Mike Potter to his greatest source of pride, his oldest son Jeff Potter. He is a 6-foot-9 forward-center for the top-ranked Redmond High School boys basketball team.
Jeff Potter is a fearsome presence a hop, skip and a jump from the basket. He also can shoot from the outside, start and finish the fast break. And he can dribble - with both hands - up the court with the best of them.
His size and deftness around the basket has earned him a college scholarship to the University of Oregon. Potter was rated the 20th-best player on The Long Beach Press Telegram's Best in the West list, a compilation of the top high-school recruits in the Western United States. He drew serious attention from several NCAA Division I schools and took visits to Washington, Washington State and Cal-Santa Barbara before deciding on Oregon.
``If you would have told me a few years ago that all this was going to happen with Jeff, I would have thought, `Yeah . . . . sure,''' said Jeff's mother, Jeannie Potter.
Jeff Potter's best move might have been the one his parents' made.
Mike Potter, his wife said, is one the best when it comes to reading the classified ads. Two springs ago, he came across a tiny one. For sale: a half-acre wooded lot in Redmond. It was a private sale, and a steal for $36,000.
The Potters, who had been looking to move for a long time, couldn't turn this one down.
At the time, the Potters lived near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where Mike works. Jeff was attending Tyee High School, a member of the Class AA Seamount League. The couple looked at property all over King County and even in Puyallup. Affordability was the deciding factor, although some have insisted it was basketball.
``I left a lot of good friends behind,'' Jeff said. ``I kind of found out who my real friends were. I still keep in touch with them. There were some people saying I transfered because of basketball. I was really in the closet about most of it.''
Jeff had just been elected student body treasurer at Tyee and was looking forward to his junior year. He was born and raised in the South End and knew nothing different. All his friends and most of his extended family lived there.
``It was real hard to leave everybody behind,'' he said.
Mike and Jeannie didn't want to tell their kids they were moving until everything was final. Somehow, the newspapers found out before the rest of the family.
``They (the newspaper) called and said, `We heard you were going to move to Redmond,' and I almost had a heart attack,'' Jeannie said. ``I told them if they put it in the paper, to make it a small article because I've got to tell a lot of people real quick. Jeff didn't even know.''
In many ways, Redmond is still new to the Potters, who live on the Sammamish plateau blocks away from Redmond Coach Jerry Koester. They are still learning the back roads that lead to their newly constructed house. But Jeff said he feels as much at home in Redmond as he did in his old home.
``At first it was very strange,'' he said. ``I'd walk around the halls. I was real quiet. I didn't say much in class. I was just . . . I wouldn't say I was scared, but I was very shy.
``But I knew Jeff Dick (a former Redmond player now at Western Washington) from BCI (Basketball Congress International). He and his girlfriend made it easier for me to fit in. Jeff, Barry (Johnson), Derek (Looney), they all made me feel real welcome.''
It didn't take long for Potter to be completely convinced the move was for the better. As much as he loved his old school, there was a part he doesn't miss at all.
``I remember my sophomore season,'' he said. ``We were over .500 and we went to district. We had a pretty good year. But at our home games, we were lucky to get 20 parents and 30 students. We weren't getting any support at all.''
Tyee fit the growing Potter like an old pair of pants.
Ever since he was old enough to compete in sports, he was always one of the bigger boys. Mike Potter thought his son was going to be a football player. But he also coached his son in soccer and baseball. He made sure his two sons, Jeff and Zak, got a good start.
Mike Potter's philosophy: Play now, decide later.
``I expected them to play sports until sixth grade,'' he said. ``Then if they didn't want to play anymore, then that was up to them. But I wanted them to learn when they were young. It kept them busy.''
Jeff learned the fundamentals from his father. If there was something Mike Potter didn't understand about soccer, baseball or basketball, he went to the library and checked out books. Jeff picked up on it. He would rather read a sports encyclopedia than take his dad up on invitations to go fishing.
As a sophomore at Tyee, Potter was chosen second-team All-Seamount. The summer before he attended Redmond, he went to a camp at the University of Washington and tried out for the BCI team.
``He was a nobody then. But he has surprised me many times,'' Mike Potter said. ``Sometimes he doesn't tell me what his goals are. When he told me he was going to make the BCI team, I thought, `That's great if he does, and it's great if he doesn't,' but he made that team.''
Jeff Potter's favorite saying is: ``If it is to be, it is up to me.''
He suprised his father again last summer at the Superstars Camp at UC-Santa Barbara, when he was named to the all-star team and was chosen one of the top 15 players of 300 participants.
Koester, who coaches the second-string Washington BCI squads, got his first look at Potter at the BCI tryout, as did Mercer Island Coach Ed Pepple, who coaches the first-string BCI team.
``I had heard his family was moving here, but I didn't know who he was,'' Koester said. ``He certainly had a lot of promise, but wasn't polished. The special thing about Jeff is his work ethic.
``His improvement has been tremendous. And that's not because of the program or the coaches. It's him, his desire to learn and fit in with the players.''
Potter's new team had won back-to-back state championships in 1988 and '89. Because of that, Potter was a little intimidated when he joined the Mustangs. But Koester had a need at center, and Potter flourished there.
He was selected second-team All-KingCo and honorable mention all-state and helped the Mustangs win a Sea-King District championship.
Mike and Jeannie Potter love their new home, and their new basketball life. As Redmond fans, they no longer watch games in half-empty gyms.
Despite a job with United Airlines that gets Mike up at 4 a.m., he goes to all of Jeff's and Zak's games. (Zak plays for Evergreen Junior High). Jeannie's job is to video-tape all of the Mustangs' games.
Jeff and his father watch the tapes together, and occasionally Mike Potter is Coach again. Jeff said he still learns a lot from his dad.
``We try to analyze things,'' Mike Potter said. ``It's just the little things. I don't want to make it sound like my role is very big. I taught him just the very basic things, how to rebound, how to shoot. . . .''
And how to dribble with both hands.
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