Coming Home

Kyle Singler has a sizable following as his Pistons visit the Trail Blazers
Detroit Pistons forward Kyle Singler, right, looks to pass as he is defended by Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge during the second half of Saturday night's game in Portland.AP

PORTLAND — "At forward," the Portland Trail Blazers announcer intoned, "6 feet, 8 inches from Duke, No. 25 "… Kyle "… Singler!"

Some in the packed Rose Garden house applauded politely.

Most ignored him.

The gaggle of 90 or so rabid Detroit Pistons fans spanning sections 327 and 328, high above the Rose Garden floor, went nuts. They jumped and screamed, too far away from anything to be heard, but too happy not to make a joyful noise.

All that was missing was the white smoke.

They were fresh-faced youngsters from Kids Unlimited who had taken a bus up from Medford Saturday morning just for that very moment.

They knew Kyle Singler as well as anybody in the house, except for Ed and Kris Singler, watching from a 200-level suite, and Bill Singler, who drove up early Saturday morning.

But the kids know Kyle Singler on a whole different plane than anybody else. They play video games with him at KU's Riverside Avenue facility. They go to his basketball clinics and play a little one-on-one with him.

They just, well, hang with him. And he hangs with them.

It's been going on since Singler was in the eighth grade.

So when the Unlimited Kid comes back to his home state, Kids Unlimited are going to do their best to let him know how much they love him.

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Since he left Medford more or less for good in the fall of 2007, Singler has slowly separated himself from the city. He played his college ball across the country at Duke, then crossed the Atlantic to play for a year in Spain. His permanent home is in Los Angeles.

And yet, after a Saturday morning Pistons shootaround at the Rose Garden, he pledged his allegiance to a place that will always be home.

"I'm always an Oregon kid," he said. "A Southern Oregon kid. I love these games especially because I was born and raised here. I came to watch these Blazers when I was a kid.

"So it's a special thing coming back here. I get to see some high school friends, people I don't get to see very often."

A big piece of his heart belongs — will always belong — with the children of Kids Unlimited. He spends a lot of his Medford time there.

He started working with Kids Unlimited when he was in the eighth grade and he followed his older sister Katie, who worked there.

Metaphorically, he has never really left.

"It's like having an extended family, really," he said. "I have some kids who are really close friends, that I've developed solid relationships with.

"They're really good kids. I have a really good time with them. They just come from families that might not have the resources that other families have."

Singler's return home to Oregon actually began on Friday, when the Pistons arrived from the Bay Area after their seventh straight loss, a 105-97 setback at Golden State.

Singler spent some of it with old South Medford Panther teammate Michael Harthun, who just finished his Portland State career and joined his pal to watch Kyle's kid brother E.J. help Oregon destroy Utah in the Pac-12 semifinals in Las Vegas.

He called his brother: "I told him just to enjoy the opportunity." And he tried to talk his parents into staying in Las

Vegas: "It's E.J.'s last year with the Ducks."

On Saturday morning, he shot with his teammates, then connected with his parents when they arrived from Las Vegas.

Then he got ready to do what he really came to Portland to do.

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Scott Spiegelberg and his son, and brother Barry Spiegelberg came up from Corvallis to watch the game. They were among the small contingent who gathered in admiration of a kid they've known all his life.

South Medford physical education teacher Amanda Boster, her husband Tad and their sons Ty, Cole and Austin were there, too.

They had five juicy seats near midcourt, three rows back from the floor. They were a gift from Tad's employers at Abba Freight, which has season tickets.

Still, it's a long drive from Medford to see an NBA basketball game they could just as easily watch at home. But Amanda Boster had what she thought was the best reason of all to make the trip: a chance for her children to see somebody she considers almost a perfect role model.

"It's not just how far he's gone," she said, "it's how he's done it. It's his integrity. It's his work ethic."

But none of the work ethic, integrity and whoops from the Kids Unlimited contingent could make the day complete for Singler. The line on his box score was below his season averages: He had just four points — on 2 of 10 shooting. No rebounds. No assists.

And the Pistons lost their eighth straight, 112-101.

It was not for lack of trying. The Pistons are kind of a mess these days, so it always seemed to work out that when Singler cut to the basket or spotted up at the 3-point line, nobody could get him the ball.

His defense was fine. When Blazer gunner Nicholas Batum was on the floor, Singler had him, and the two went at each other all night. In one second-quarter sequence, Batum saw a sliver of light from the left corner and rose for a 3-pointer.

Singler rose with him and distracted the shot, then fled for the other end of the court. Piston guard Rodney Stuckey got him the ball for a layup. Batum blocked it from behind.

Just about nothing went the way Singler really wanted it to.

"I just never really got into a rhythm," he said.

"Sometimes you have games like that."

The interview — eight media types crowded around his locker — lasted 2 minutes, 38 seconds. Which was fine with Singler.

He was in a hurry to get to a reception. His folks were there. So were Uncle Bill, Barry and Scott and Tom Cole and some of the Kids Unlimited.

Losing a basketball game doesn't seem nearly so bad when you're home.


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