Prep basketball: Rainier Beach's David Crisp familiar with state environment

Rainier Beach guard already has 1 title – a 2A crown with Clover Park

Staff writerMarch 6, 2014 


Rainier Beach point guard David Crisp is no stranger to state basketball tournaments -- he and cousin Ahmaad Rorie helped lead the Clover Park Warriors to the Class 2A state title as freshmen in 2011. Crisp, who has committed to play at Washington in 2015, hopes he can add a 3A championship with the Vikings.

PETER HALEY — Staff photographer Buy Photo

This time of year, the spirits really start to pick up along Rainier Avenue in Seattle.

It is state high school basketball championship week, and Rainier Beach High School has won its fair share of Class 3A titles over the years.

If you need a reminder of just how many, start by looking at the stain-marked rounded roof over the school’s gymnasium. It counts.

“1988 ... 1998 ... 2002 ... 2003.”

The list of 3A titles stops there, almost as if all the paint in the Rainier Valley ran out so the list could not be completed (for the record, the Vikings have seven of them).

Inside, a blend of championship-winning veterans and optimistic first-timers fill Crawford Court for a day of practice.

Point guard David Crisp arrives after the others. A sixth-period test ran late. He hurries over to the side to quickly shed his street clothes, and slips on a practice jersey, basketball shorts and sneakers.

Crisp looks calm for a first-year Vikings starter, almost like he has been through all of this before.

He has — at Clover Park High School.

While it seems like decades ago, it was 2011 when Crisp and cousin Ahmaad Rorie played for the Warriors when they captured the Class 2A title in Yakima.

After three seasons, Crisp transferred to Rainier Beach over the summer. Oddly enough, this week gives the 6-foot-1 standout the opportunity to finish his career in his hometown as the Vikings open the 3A state tournament against Shadle Park on Thursday at the Tacoma Dome — something that never would have taken place if he stayed at Clover Park.

“I loved playing in the SunDome (in Yakima), but I’ve always dreamed of the feeling of what it would be like to play in the Tacoma Dome,” Crisp said. “It is such a blessing to be able to finish my career off there.”

He’d like it to end the way it began.

In 2011, it all came together so quickly. Crisp and Rorie were high-profile ninth-graders from the Amateur Athletic Union circuit — supreme playmakers — but the team was led by senior Tana Pritchard, now a football player at Washington State University, and longtime coach Mel Ninnis.

In the 2A title game, Clover Park defeated Squalicum, 69-54, for its first state championship.

“We weren’t both expected to be starting, but we played real good in the summer league,” Rorie said. “Tana was a real good leader and put a lot of confidence in us.

“I remember winning, and the first thing we did was run on the court and hug each other. We both celebrated.”

That would be their high point together. The next year, the Warriors were upset by Lindbergh in the state quarterfinals. Months later, Rorie decided to leave and transfer to Lincoln, leaving Crisp behind.

“I understood, but at first I was a little bit hurt,” Crisp said. “I wanted to go with him.”

Crisp was the undisputed star last season, averaging a career-high 23.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists in earning back-to-back News Tribune All-Area first-team honors. But the Warriors lost to Anacortes in the state quarterfinals.

“A few colleges were talking to me, mostly mid-majors,” said Crisp, rattling off Wyoming, Boise State, Santa Clara and San Diego State as the schools most interested. “And then I had a good AAU season, and more colleges came around.”

At the start of the summer, Crisp and his parents, Dave and Jill, began researching the teenager’s immediate and long-term future.

Because Crisp is young for his class — he doesn’t turn 18 until next September — the family wanted to get him reclassified to one grade back academically.

The three of them started looking into post-high school preparatory academies around the country, and found one that would reclassify Crisp next year as a senior — Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., which also has a well-regarded basketball team.

“It’s another year to develop and be older,” Crisp said.

Enrolling at Brewster Academy next September meant he could finish up four years of high school basketball somewhere in Washington. They left Clover Park and moved just two blocks from Rainier Beach to start a new — albeit brief — tenure with the Vikings.

“I was devastated,” Ninnis said.

Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea said he first met Crisp last summer, when the family visited the school.

“I usually sit down (with new players) to see what they like to do, and how they interact with the other players before we even get on the court,” Bethea said.

“And then with David, I didn’t want to change his game. I asked him, ‘What do you see the need to improve on to become a complete player?’ Because when you are playing together with guys who are your equal (in ability), that can take your game to a whole new level.”

From the first time he stepped on the court for varsity action, Crisp has been an impact performer — so much he is arguably the most complete player the Vikings have in the backcourt.

When he runs the point, he gets Rainier Beach into whatever offense Bethea wants to run, and whatever tempo the longtime coach choose to go.

And if the offense is stagnant, Crisp can shift to shooting guard. He is second on the team in scoring at 21.0 points a game.

“He knows how to take that big shot,” Bethea said.

It was right after the Vikings won the Les Schwab Invitational in Portland during the winter holiday that Crisp decided to commit to the University of Washington. He will join the Huskies in 2015.

Even with all that has gone on in Seattle, Crisp has always made time to visit Tacoma. Once or twice a week, he attended Lincoln games to watch Rorie, or Clover Park games to watch former backcourt mate Philip Winston.

“On the weekends, I’ve tried to go down there to see everybody,” Crisp said. “I have a cousin, Jayla, who is 4, and she loves me. So I’ve been down there a lot.”

Do life-changing decisions like this come with a level of regret? Absolutely. Crisp has taken his share of criticism for leaving many supporters behind.

“It was a hard decision — a real tough decision,” Crisp said. “Coach Ninnis is a great guy. But I knew the people who supported me would understand what I was trying to do. And being here, it’s worked out great.”

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