TURNER — Last summer, people started asking Halle Wright, the Cascade girls basketball star, if she was going to transfer to some powerhouse Class 6A high school.
A highly decorated, multi-talented athlete – in more sports than just basketball – with a rising profile among college coaches, Wright was a stellar player from the instant she first took to the court for Cascade’s perennial state contender high school program.
So it was an obvious question of if she would want to go off to a high-profile bigger high school.
The people who asked didn’t really know Halle Wright.
“I’m loyal here. I’m not going anywhere,” she told them. “I bleed black and gold.”
Wright, a 6-foot point guard, is an outgoing character off the court who plays with a dogged determination – and ridiculous versatility – on the court.
But when you learn of her family history with Cascade you learn how deep her loyalty to the school runs.
Her mother, Candis (Blanton) Wright, played on Cascade’s 1988 Class 3A state runner-up girls basketball team.
Her older sister, Jossalyn, played on Cascade’s 2011 Class 4A state championship girls basketball team.
Her older brother, Orion, played on Cascade’s 2013 4A state runner-up boys basketball team.
Halle (pronounced like Halley’s Comet) was on Cascade’s 2014 4A state runner-up girls soccer team and was on the state runner-up girls basketball team last winter.
It’s the kind of family where every argument ends with the eldest daughter bringing out her state championship gold medal.
“These are solid, rock-solid Cascade people,” said Cascade coach Mark Stevens, in his 26th year at the school. “I never had any concerns.”
Her family is the type where when Halle finally beat her older brother in a one-on-one basketball game – after a lifetime of trying – she celebrated like it was the end of the world.
“We all came to the gym one day and it was my mom and my brother on one team and my sister and I on the other. It was tough,” she said. “You come home with bruises and we beat you. That was fun.
“A lot of tension builds up and you start talking at one another. Like who’s the favorite?”
As the youngest of three siblings, Wright started playing basketball – and soccer – at 3 years old.
Her mother always coached her basketball teams and her father, Ed, always coached her soccer teams.
No matter what sport she tried, at whatever age, Wright always stood out.
But what she did in her freshman year on Cascade’s girls basketball team was something no one could have predicted.
“She’s just a great athlete all around with soccer, also, but we always knew she was special with basketball,” junior Emma Woods said.
“Freshman year, we knew she was special, but that freshman year she really just exploded, and you could just see how much she stood out, even as a freshman, which was amazing. It was a really cool thing.”
An instant matchup problem as a 6-foot point guard with power, opposing coaches had no idea what they were getting into against her.
As a freshman she averaged 17.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 3.8 steals and 2.4 blocks per game. Those are numbers no freshman averages.
In a game against Philomath her freshman year, Cascade was having problems on defense with a post in a close game down the stretch.
Wright asked to guard the girl during a time out and of course made the plays to help her team win.
“It wasn’t me, it wasn’t a big X’s and O’s, it was her as a freshman telling me that I can D her,” Stevens said.
Though Wright was always the tallest player on every team growing up, she never fell into the category of being a true post.
While her mother and older sister taught her post moves, her brother taught her moves as a guard.
It makes for an instant fast break.
And it explains why she can lead Cascade in rebounds and assists – like she did as a sophomore with 12.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists – and still average 15.6 points per game.
“I think opposing teams have the same issue,” Stevens said. “Who do you put on her? We’re going to post her up. You put a little on her, we’re going to post her up.”
For fun last spring, she competed in track and field – her first time in the sport since middle school – and went straight from class to practice for an hour, went home and left immediately for Portland and a three-hour basketball practice with her FAST Basketball Academy AAU team, and made it home around midnight.
And she did all that five days a week.
It paid off as she placed fourth in the state in the shot put, but it was a huge commitment.
“You know, I was brought up where if I am doing something, I have to be loyal to it,” said the two-time Oregon West girls basketball player of the year and two-time first-team all-state selection.
“By sticking with it, I get the self-accomplishment with it. My reward for doing that is I went to state in discus and shot put. I just did it for fun.”
It’s not a coincidence that with Wright as the team’s star player, Cascade is 7-0 and ranked No. 2 in the OSAA’s power rankings this season.
But something still gnaws at her.
Wright still thinks back to last year’s 4A state championship game – which Cascade lost 45-40 to Sutherlin – and has regrets.
And she has nightmares about that game.
Wright has picked apart her role in the state title game a million times and tried to figure out everything she could have done differently to have won that game and finally win a state championship.
She is the kind of person who would give back every individual honor she has ever received to win a state championship.
“I talk to my mom about it and she says, ‘I see you winning two state championships,’” Wright said. “I’m like, ‘How about one and then we’ll work on two.’”
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