Tory Causey just wanted to play basketball. It didn’t matter if it was with the varsity, junior varsity or C team.
He was a 2013-14 News Tribune All-Area player, one who played a key role on Curtis High School’s 4A state championship team as a sophomore two years ago. He transferred last spring to Washington — a Class 2A school that hasn’t won a league title in 26 years.
Since then he transferred back to Curtis and back to Washington. Whether he would even be eligible to play basketball was a long shot. And more than half the Washington boys basketball players didn’t want him. The other half was on the fence.
“Some of the guys said, ‘No, don’t let him play, he’s going to hurt our chemistry,’ ” junior guard Jaomani Scott said. “I was like, ‘This man has a ring already. We haven’t even been to the playoffs’ ”
Their only impression of Causey was when he played on Washington’s summer league team.
“Personally, it wasn’t that fun,” junior guard Kaleb Whitemarsh said. “It was kind of the Tory Causey show.”
The players first held a players-only meeting Dec. 6, and it was such a point of contention that they continued to discuss it through the weekend. Causey texted coach Karl Cordes throughout the weekend for updates, telling him he’d play JV if he had to. Causey even practiced with the C team.
“I just told (Causey), ‘I’m going to leave it up to the guys, so as soon as they tell me, I’ll tell you,’ ” Cordes said. “And (the team) called me and said, ‘Hey, we want him to come to practice and see how he fits chemistry-wise.’ I was really impressed. They were really mature about it.
“They just wanted to do what was right for the team. And they committed to having him.”
They determined they’d keep him on a trial basis: the Patriots’ way or the highway.
“And I said, ‘I believe I can do that. I want to be on this team and be a part of you guys,’ ” Causey said.
But he first had to be declared eligible. Causey had yet to win his appeal to the West Central District, which would hear Causey’s hardship case concerning his transfer.
Causey transferred from Curtis to Washington in the spring to live with his mother. He was still there the first day of the new school year, but not the second. His father wanted Causey back at Curtis.
Causey had nine practices with Curtis before transferring back to Washington the first week of December to go back to living with his mom.
“Both of the times that he moved, it was out of his hands,” Cordes said.
He was cleared to play after his noon eligibility hearing Dec. 19 and came off the bench that night in a 71-60 win over White River, scoring 12 points. He came off the bench one more game before entering the starting lineup for good.
Causey is second on the team in scoring at 13.6 points per game, just behind Chandler Whalen (a transfer from Puyallup), who is averaging 16.4. Causey and Whalen used to play against each other in the 4A SPSL South, but now are stars of the 2A SPSL.
But Causey’s more valuable than just his scoring punch. He’s a tenacious defender, having been one of Curtis coach Tim Kelly’s “unleash the fury” fullcourt defensive players on the state championship squad. And he’s one of the floor generals of Washington’s offense, almost distributing the basketball to a fault, Cordes said.
He’s a far more useful player than the one Washington saw in the summer.
“It’s been really great,” Whitemarsh said. “It’s so much different than summer league. He’s playing with us.”
And Causey said he’s matured, even since his days at Curtis.
“When I’d come on the court, I’d be joking with guys, but now I’m not a joker on the court,” Causey said. “I play with more seriousness. I feel like I play more relaxed now.”
Said Cordes: “He’s been fantastic. And, I think, the biggest bonus of this: The fact that he came in and was willing to do whatever to be a part of the team.”
It has helped lead to a resurgent season for Washington. Causey helped the Patriots (15-5, 11-3) earn their first winning season since 2001. Washington plays host to Bremerton at 7 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the bi-district tournament, this after being just four years removed from back-to-back winless seasons in league play.
Though players were hesitant to accept him at first, Causey has since proved invaluable, especially his experience at the Tacoma Dome.
This year he hopes to make his first appearance in the Yakima Sun Dome.
“The only thing I think I should bring to the table is bringing people up and helping them,” Causey said. “Because I’ve been there. I know what it takes. But I also want to distribute and score when I need to.
“We are a team. I feel if we play a little harder on defense as a group and communicate with each other, we’ll be just fine.”