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Fire within

Ask Kaison Faust to describe himself and there’s no pause for the laid-back North Medford High junior.

“I’m probably one of the most quiet kids ever,” he sheepishly admits.

Ask anyone who has watched him play basketball this year for the Black Tornado, and quiet is not the word you will hear in describing Faust.

On the basketball court, the 6-foot-1 forward is fiery.

He carries a warrior’s spirit and is not afraid to show it.

And he’s a huge reason why North Medford (21-5) has already made a little school history even before it steps on the floor at Portland’s Chiles Center for Wednesday’s Class 6A state quarterfinals game against four-time defending champion West Linn.

“What he brings to our team is just absolutely everything,” says North Medford head coach Scott Plankenhorn. “It’s amazing the transformation he’s made in one year.”

Faust started for North Medford as a sophomore but his dedication to improve his all-around game in the offseason has made him one of the top players in the Southwest Conference — if not the best — this year as well as a rising college recruit.

Faust leads the Black Tornado in scoring (15.4 points per game) and steals (1.9) and ranks second only to versatile 6-6 senior Brad Allen in rebounds (6.6). Faust and Allen each lead the team with 2.2 assists per game and 1.2 blocks per game.

As a sign of his growth, Faust is shooting 30 percent from 3-point range to go with 69 percent inside the arc.

“He’s got a perimeter game now and is hard to guard on the perimeter,” says Plankenhorn, “but he still has that interior game where he can get in there and make things happen.”

Faust says a year of seasoning at the varsity level helped him take the court with more confidence and more leadership capabilities, as well as a push from older brothers Tevin, Chris and Jared.

Each of the Faust boys have played in the North Medford program under Plankenhorn, with their father Richard — who played for Oregon Tech from 1989-91 — serving as his longtime assistant coach. Chris Faust is in his senior season playing for OIT, which opens play in the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championships on Wednesday.

“They always give me the encouragement that you are one of the best players in the state and they just give me the mentality that no one can guard you,” says Faust, who turns 17 on Friday.

That’s not to say he didn’t endure a few hard knocks from that same supportive bunch growing up.

“They were tough and they taught me to be tough,” he adds. “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.”

However it has been developed, there’s no denying the youngest Faust has a tremendous passion for the game of basketball. On the court, he transforms into another person entirely.

“I started young and I’ve just been around basketball so much that it became a love and a passion for me,” says Faust, who began playing on a team in third grade but has had a ball in his hands since he can remember. “I love this game so much. I take a lot of time and effort to be good at what I want to do and this is what I want to do. Watching my brothers play, especially watching Chris play, I was like, ‘I want to be that one day, just be on the varsity court playing in front of a big crowd with a chance to play on the big stage.’”

That’s one reason Faust is so excited about the state tournament.

“Not a lot of people get to go to the state tournament, so I’m going to cherish each moment like it’s my last,” he says. “I think what we’ve done as a team to finally win the conference championship is a really big moment. I’ve had so much fun this season, I really don’t want this season to end. I love these guys so much.”

What helps set Faust apart is his ability to impact the game in all phases, be it through his scoring, defense or rebounding on either end of the court.

“I definitely pride myself on being an all-around player,” he says. “You can be an offensive player, but if you don’t have the defense, then you’re not going to go far. My dad has told me multiple times that you can be effective on both sides of the court, you just have to work at it.”

And sometimes amid all that work, the laid-back Faust becomes the feisty Faust, with an emotional yell to himself or a shout-out to his family of supporters in the stands.

“It’s a motivation thing, really,” he says of his rare outbursts. “After a big play usually it just feels good to let a little steam out, especially if I’m having a bad game and make a big play to get that frustration out.”

It’s part of that passionate play that leads Plankenhorn and company to lean on Faust from time to time.

“There’s been multiple games where we look at him and say, ‘We need something,’” says Plankenhorn, “and he’ll turn into a different level and get more aggressive looking for things for himself. He’ll just go crazy sometimes and he just explodes. He probably could do that more often but at the same time he’s such a team-oriented player he’s willing to do whatever is best for the whole group.”

That’s precisely the attitude Faust takes into every game, and it won’t change this week — even if North Medford feels it has something to prove in Portland.

“It seems like people have never heard of North Medford so we’re going to try to make some noise up in that state tourney,” says Faust. “We’ve been practicing since Day 1 as hard as we can to bring home that state title and that’s what we’re planning on doing. If we play our brand of basketball then we’re a tough team to beat.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Versatile junior Kaison Faust leads North Medford in most statistical categories as the Black Tornado prepares to face West Linn in the Class 6A quarterfinals Wednesday. [ANDY ATKINSON/FOR THE MAIL TRIBUNE]