It will be business before pleasure for North Medford basketball standout Kaison Faust on Friday.
Hours before he dons a Mail Tribune All-Star Basketball Classic uniform for the third and final time, the Southwest Conference boys player of the year will sign to play for Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls.
Faust decided several months ago that he would attend the NAIA Division II school, following in the footsteps of his father, Richard, and brother, Chris. He kept his decision private during the winter, he said, to “focus on the season.” As the season progressed, he added, his desire to play for the Owls intensified.
OIT went 22-11 and made it to the national tournament, losing in the first round.
Faust will sign with the Owls during a ceremony that starts at 2:30 p.m. at North Medford.
Hours later, he’ll play for his soon-to-be college coach, Justin Parnell, in the All-Star game.
The 11th edition of the Mail Tribune boys and girls games will be Friday at Kids Unlimited in Medford, with the girls tipping off at 6 p.m. and the boys at 7:30.
Tickets to the games, which feature top high school players from 16 schools in the region, classes 6A to 1A, are $8 for adults and $4 for students. Children 12 and under get in free.
Proceeds go to Kids Unlimited, which will be unveiling a new, technologically advanced gym to the public. The arena is part of a $4.5 million expansion project.
Fans vote for the games’ starters. The ballot is available at www.mailtriubne.com/sports. Voting closes at noon Friday. As of Wednesday at noon, there were about 8,500 ballots cast.
The games will be streamed live on www.tablerocksports.net.
Parnell will coach Faust’s Rogues team, while Southern Oregon University men’s coach Brian McDermott will handle the Siskiyous.
The girls coaches will be SOU women’s coach Alex Carlson (Siskiyous) and OIT women’s coach Scott Meredith (Rogues).
Something will have to give when Faust suits up for the Rogues. He is 2-0 in the Classic, having played both times for the Siskiyous — who have won eight straight despite a selection process that seeks equity when devising the teams.
Last year, the Siskiyous trailed by 14 entering the fourth quarter and rallied for a 95-90 overtime win, the first extra-session game in the Classic’s history.
Faust had 18 points and 10 rebounds to aid the cause.
The games are fun-filled and free-flowing, but players are conditioned to try to win.
“Most of the time, it’s pretty relaxed,” said Faust. "But it gets to a certain point where it gets pretty serious, then people start putting a little more effort into it.
“It’s been fun. We have a lot of talented kids in the area, and I’m blessed to be chosen out of so many good players.”
Although more than a dozen schools are represented, many of the players have crossed paths over the years, playing with or against each other.
In surveying his team, Faust noted the Rogues should “have a pretty good chance” to prevail. He singled out a couple of guards, Crater senior Mason Vranes and Cascade Christian senior Tyler Cochran, he’s familiar with through youth leagues and workouts.
“We’ve got some pretty good guards,” said Faust.
Joel McLemore, a first-team all-state senior wing for Cascade Christian, returns to the game as well, playing opposite Faust for the Siskiyous.
He’s versed in the level of players he’ll see on the court and looks forward to what should be a fast-paced, offense-laden show.
“It’s basketball at its core,” said McLemore. “Run around and have a good time.”
In comparing the two boys teams, he expects a good, competitive game, as “it always is,” he said.
“You have respect for the guys,” said McLemore. “I have respect for every single one of them. They may be my challengers in the regular season, so it’s nice to get to play with them every once in a while.”
The girls game will be the first for Crater senior Alexus Woodard. She has attended them “every year to support the girls,” she said.
The 5-foot-9 post will suit up for the Siskiyous, who will try to end a two-year losing streak.
The Rogues triumphed in the 2017 game, 62-54, as MVP Hannah Washington, of South Medford, produced 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“I’m just excited to play with some of these girls who go to different schools,” said Woodard, who helped a balanced Comets squad to last week’s 5A state tournament. “I’m excited to be on their team; I’m excited to play against Maya.”
Maya Van Hook is Woodard’s Crater teammate, a junior making her first All-Star appearance as a member of the Rogues.
“She knows she can put me to work if she gets to guard me,” said Woodard, “and she’s tough to guard.”
The two have engaged in a bit of trash talk since the teams were announced last week.
“We usually stop talking before too long,” laughed Woodard. “We don’t want to get too mad at each other.”
She expects an evenly matched contest, and winning matters.
“Of course, that’s a priority,” she said.
Returning players in the girls game are North Medford’s Megan Fossen and Rylee Karrick, South Medford’s Ula Chamberlin, Eagle Point’s Carlene Hart, Ashland’s Mya Elder-Hammond, Hidden Valley’s Kaylee Krusemark, St. Mary’s Emma Bennion and Rogue River’s Jesse Langfield.
In the boys game, returners are Faust, McLemore and Crater’s Vranes and Kiefer Edwards.
Here are teams:
ROGUE BOYS: Kaison Faust, North Medford; Jesse Higgins, South Medford; Sherman Hunter, South Medford; Mason Vranes, Crater; KJ Pippa, Ashland; Zakk Scott, Eagle Point; Tyler Cochran, Cascade Christian; Diego Agosto, Rogue River; Caleb Hess, Illinois Valley; Brendan Raines, Prospect.
SISKIYOU BOYS: Oscar Banuelos, North Medford; Quinton Rumrey, North Medford; Taylor Anderson, Grants Pass; Kiefer Edwards, Crater; Nate Bittle, Crater; Javan Gail, Phoenix; Colton Lauby, North Valley; Joel McLemore, Cascade Christian; Jakab Bowling, St. Mary's; Dalton Lester, Butte Falls.
ROGUE GIRLS: Megan Fossen, North Medford; Rylee Karrick, North Medford; Bella Pedrojetti, South Medford; Maya Van Hook, Crater; Mya Elder-Hammond, Ashland; Taylor DeVry, Phoenix; Kaylee Krusemark, Hidden Valley; Aarika Brooks, Illinois Valley; Jesse Langfield, Rogue River; Alivia Fulton, Prospect.
SISKIYOU GIRLS: Jane Ersepke, North Medford; Ula Chamberlin, South Medford; Ahdra Klingler, Grants Pass; Alexus Woodard, Crater; Carlene Hart, Eagle Point; Haley Kersten, North Valley; Sophie Ferreira, Cascade Christian; Emma Bennion, St. Mary's; T'neal Myers, Butte Falls; Savanah Zamora, Rogue Valley Adventist.
— Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org