Posted On: 03/25/20 5:22 PM
The 2019-20 season may have come to a close in abrupt fashion but despite the fact the state tournament was canceled, it was a year that was filled with remarkable team and individual performances. All-league honorees and players of the year have been named and we recently determined our 6A All-State teams. But a question remained – who should be the PrepHoops Oregon 6A State Player of the Year?
There were certainly some incredible candidates to consider. Jesse WhiteJesseWhite6'0" | CGSam Barlow | 2020StateOR had an incredible year at Barlow, leading the state in scoring while leading the Bruins to the Mt. Hood Conference title. After a slow start to the season by his standards, there may have been no more unstoppable offensive force than the senior guard in 2020. Similarly difficult to contain was Ben GreggBenGregg6'8" | SFClackamas | 2021State#42NationOR at Clackamas. At 6-foot-8 and able to score from anywhere on the floor the junior was near unguardable, yet he played unselfishly and trusted his teammates. There was clearly no issue jumping up to the 6A level for him as he led the Cavs to a Top 4 ranking and earned national recognition.
Other league players of the years such as Drew CarterDrewCarter6'3" | SGTigard | 2021StateOR (Tigard), Matthew LevisMatthewLevis5'11" | CGJesuit | 2020StateOR (Jesuit), and Jamison GuerraJamisonGuerra5'11" | CGSherwood | 2020StateOR (Sherwood) all had outstanding seasons. But when it all came down to choosing a state player of the year, we remembered a famous quote from one of the all-time legends, Hall of Fame great and former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summit:
“Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships.”
With that said, we have named Nathan Rawlins-KibongeNathanRawlins-Kibonge6'7" | PFJefferson | 2021State#218NationOR of Jefferson our 6A Player of the Year. Not to take anything away from the accomplishments of anyone else, but when you talk about the impact that the 6-foot-7 junior made for arguably the best team in the state on the boards and on the defensive end – he scored too to boot – Rawlins-Kibonge seemed like the choice to make over any other.
“I feel humbled and blessed but not satisfied,” Rawlins-Kibonge said in reaction to earning the nod. “There’s still a whole ’nother level to get to.”
Never settling is indicative of what motivates Rawlins-Kibonge. He noted that he’s still processing how to feel after the season was cut short and he and his Jefferson teammates were unable to compete for what was his own personal goal as well – the state title. But his numbers certainly spoke for themselves – on the year Rawlins-Kibonge led all of 6A in rebounding (12.6 rpg) and blocked shots (4.8 bpg) while also getting the job done offensively, averaging 13 points on 61.7 percent field goal shooting.
It wasn’t just all about stats though as Rawlins-Kibonge stepped up as Jefferson’s vocal leader both on and off the floor. And so much of his impact couldn’t be defined by raw numbers. As talented as he was plugging the hole in the middle defensively – the number of shots he altered with his presence without even blocking them were countless – Rawlins-Kibonge was as good at holding his ground and taking offensive charges. His relentlessness on the glass often tired out opponents by game’s end and Jefferson would almost always finish the game winning the rebounding battle.
While on the surface his scoring average may not have compared with some of the high-scorers in the state, Rawlins-Kibonge operated in a team concept at Jefferson in 2019-20 – he was one of five guys averaging in double figures for head coach Pat Strickland. But when he was called upon to score, he did so effectively. He had big games in wins against Grant and Westview, and he notched a team-high 20 points in Jefferson’s final win of the season over Sherwood in the game before state. Nobody in the state dunked as hard or as much as Rawlins-Kibonge, each one of them helping fuel Jefferson’s momentum in every game.
What’s scary is that the best is still to come for the young forward. Currently committed to Washington State for basketball, his prowess and seemingly unlimited potential on the football field has garnered him attention as a major college football recruit – he currently holds at least one scholarship offer from every Power Five football conference in the country. And with basketball, he and all of his Demos teammates will be back in 2021-22 for another run at the title – one in which they most certainly will be considered the favorite. Rawlins-Kibonge noted that he would be working on both sports this off-season to perhaps prepare himself for the possibility of playing both at the college level.
Add on the fact he’s a 4.0 GPA student off the field and we could think of no better choice than Nathan Rawlins-KibongeNathanRawlins-Kibonge6'7" | PFJefferson | 2021State#218NationOR of Jefferson for our 6A state player of the year in 2019-20.