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Trail Blazers tour set to return to Medford

The Medford area made a huge impression on representatives for the Portland Trail Blazers last summer, and Tom Cole said he's expecting more of the same Monday morning at Kids Unlimited when the NBA team's "Make it Better" Statewide Summer Tour stops here.

"Our phones have been ringing and ringing and I'm not even sure how much publicity the Blazers have even done on this," said Cole, executive director of Kids Unlimited.

About 350 local boys and girls turned out for last year's morning and afternoon sessions, and Cole said he's confident of a similar showing this year.

"Last year it was the single largest stop on their tour," said Cole. "They've told us they're preparing for it to be the single largest stop again, and so are we. I think that just shows how important that the Blazers are for kids in this community and how important this community is to the Blazers."

The "Make it Better" tour stopped in 19 cities last year, but the Blazers' schedule only shows three dates for this summer — beginning Monday in Medford. The group will travel to Klamath Falls for another basketball clinic on Tuesday before heading north for a stop in Eugene on Thursday.

Monday's first session at Kids Unlimited runs 9:30 a.m. to noon for students in grades 6-8, and the second session will be 1:30-3:30 p.m. for grades 4-6. Both sessions are free to the public and will be on a first-come, first-served basis since space is somewhat limited.

"It's a great opportunity for everyone, not only kids from the summer camp but others in the community to come out and visit with some of the former and current players for the Trail Blazers and other people involved with the team," said Cole.

"The kids had a great time and I think the players had a great time last year," he added. "You also had folks that were season ticket holders who came out and have always been such huge Blazer supporters like Sherm and Wanda Olsrud, and that was something the Blazers said was different from other places and that they liked about Medford. They said it was nice to see that we had older generations of people coming out just to support the Blazers and younger kids coming out to be part of it all, too."

Former Blazers player and current radio analyst Antonio Harvey was a featured part of last year's tour stop, as well as 6-foot-11 Blazers forward Channing Frye — who was flown in by the team to make his one and only tour stop. Frye, who played two seasons in Portland, signed a free agent contract with the Phoenix Suns on Friday.

"We've been told that this year's visit will be comprised of former and current players, but they didn't say who or how many may show up," said Cole. "Last year we didn't know until the day of (the clinics) and it turned out it was Channing Frye, so we'll just have to wait and see."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com