Posted On: 04/5/20 8:17 PM

The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind for Hayden CurtissHaydenCurtiss6'9" | CMt. Si | 2020StateWA. The still-growing 6-foot-9, 210-pound senior opened eyes at the 4A state tournament in helping Mount Si to the championship and college programs came calling to inquire about his services. The University of Portland stepped up with a scholarship offer and this weekend, Curtiss decided the Pilots were the right program for his future and gave them a verbal commitment.

“D-I wise, they were really the only option I had where I could go in and play my freshman year,” Curtiss said. “A lot of D-Is I was talking to either wanted me to do a prep year or redshirt, but (Portland) made it pretty clear that I would come in and really play as a freshman and I feel like that’s what ultimately will get me better – in-game minutes. So that was a big part of choosing them.”

Curtiss didn’t make his decision blindly. Since Portland’s campus wasn’t too far away, he and his family went down to make an unofficial visit of sorts, practicing safe social distancing while getting a feel for the environment of the school.

“The NCAA has banned official visits so I just drove down a couple of days ago with my Mom and Dad and we just walked around the campus and checked it out,” Curtiss said. “While I couldn’t get inside the buildings, it just really helped me as I had never even seen the campus before. I just wanted to see what it looks like.”

“While I didn’t get to meet any of the players or any of the coaching staff or get into any of the facilities, I really liked the school and I liked where it’s located and the size of it,” Curtis continued. “I’d say that really helped me make my decision.”

Curtiss noted that other Division I schools such as Montana State, Washington State, Pepperdine, and UC Santa Barbara had shown interest and several schools in the GNAC had been in contact from the Division II level. In the end, it was head coach Terry Porter and his staff’s offer of immediate playing time that made the difference for Curtiss. And what Portland saw in him is a long, athletic big man who can really run the floor and someone who can contribute immediately as a freshman.

“When I come into the program, they’re not going to pigeon-hole me but let me play in a role that I’m more comfortable in,” Curtiss said. “They’re really going to let me play to my strengths. A lot of these D-Is that I could have gone to, they knew that I hadn’t been playing basketball very long and that all this is pretty new to me. I feel that (Portland) understood me more than any of the other schools that I talked to.”

The verbal commitment to a Division I scholarship is the culmination of what has been a real rise to the top for Curtiss. After barely getting any varsity time until this season, he saw his numbers and production go up even his senior season as it went along – peaking with his performance at the 4A state tournament, a time he will never forget.

“I went out and played the best basketball I had all year,” Curtiss said. “I just think about how close we were to getting our season cut short by COVID and if the state tournament had been like three or four days later, there was a really good chance it would have been shut down and they wouldn’t let us finish it. So I was really happy that we got to finish it and win it all. Last year of high school, my first year of really playing with the good group of guys we had – I wouldn’t have wanted to win it with anyone else.”