High School Sports

Lincoln’s top basketball player transfers to Rainier Beach, coach accuses NBA player of recruiting

Lincoln's Trevante Anderson (0) drives to the hoop while defended by Nathan Hale's Tre'Var Holland (13) in the fourth quarter. Lincoln played Nathan Hale in a basketball game at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Wash., on Friday, March 3, 2017.
Lincoln's Trevante Anderson (0) drives to the hoop while defended by Nathan Hale's Tre'Var Holland (13) in the fourth quarter. Lincoln played Nathan Hale in a basketball game at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Wash., on Friday, March 3, 2017. jbessex@gateline.com

The best player from Lincoln High School’s state semifinal boys basketball team has transferred to Rainier Beach, continuing a trend of some of the top basketball players from Tacoma transferring to schools in Seattle.

Point guard Trevante Anderson was an all-state selection and 3A Pierce County League MVP who led Lincoln to a 26-0 record and a state semifinal appearance where the Abes lost to Nathan Hale, the No. 1-ranked team in the nation with the top-ranked recruit in the country, Michael Porter Jr., last year. Now he’s at Rainier Beach.

“It was a little shocking, especially because of the relationship I have with Tre and all the years we had together, and especially with this going to be his senior year,” Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton said.

It comes in an offseason when Federal Way’s Jaden McDaniels has transferred to Garfield, which will be coached by former NBA All-Star Brandon Roy. McDaniels has a scholarship offer from the University of Washington and is the younger brother of Jalen McDaniels – the two-time state champion player for the Eagles who is now at San Diego State.

And for the second consecutive year, a Tacoma coach took to Twitter to post his frustrations over what they believe to be illegal recruiting.

Shelton tweeted at Rainier Beach graduate and current Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford, telling him that recruiting kids to Crawford’s alma mater is “illegal and not always in their best interest.”

Shelton followed with another tweet:

“Imagine if I had NBA/ex-NBA players recruiting guys from all of the state and nation to play for Lincoln?

“Would have won like 7-9 titles by now and (WIAA) wouldn’t have said anything.”

“I don’t blame (WIAA) for Garfield/Beach recruiting bonanza, I blame Metro (League) coaches for not having the heart to stop it.”

What ensued was a long back-and-forth with all-NBA point guard Isaiah Thomas, with the Tacoma native and current Cleveland Cavaliers player criticizing Shelton for “program watching,” “whining,” “crying” and that he subs players too much.

Thomas’ tweets have since been deleted from his account.

“Not once, though, did people deny the recruiting part in all of this,” Shelton said in a later interview. “They just told me to stop crying. They all accept it because everybody knows it’s true.”

Crawford did not respond to The News Tribune’s message seeking comment, nor to Shelton’s tweet.

Anderson’s father, Jonathan Anderson, in a phone interview said they are moving because of his job in Everett, which he has had for the past seven years. He said he recently got a promotion that won’t allow him to work from home as often.

He said his son met Crawford for the first time at the Seattle Pro-Am this summer and then at Crawford’s Elite 30 camp at Rainier Beach, and Crawford only spoke to him casually about how he thinks Trevante is a good player and how his recruiting search was going.

He was asked about any other time Crawford might have recruited his son to transfer.

“Not that I know of,” Jonathan Anderson said. “I haven’t heard of Jamal being in his ear to come to his school. I would say there is no truth to that.”

Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea, Crawford’s former high school coach, said Crawford denied recruiting Anderson and that he was offended by Shelton’s tweets.

“I’m oblivious as to why the guy would make an asinine comment like that about an NBA guy,” Bethea said. “That does Jamal such an injustice because of everything he does.

“Jamal saw it and he told me he was thinking about commenting on it, but he was like, ‘That means I’m trying to justify myself and I don’t need to justify myself.’ He said, ‘Bottom line, that man doesn’t know me, he doesn’t know what I’m all about.’

“He was like, ‘Coach, think about it — the influence I have, why would I, not to knock Trevante, but why would I go get him? I could get any top point guard in the country if that was the case.’ ”

Bethea said he hadn’t met Anderson until one of his players told him the Lincoln standout was already at Rainier Beach. Beach athletic director George Foster said that Anderson will have to first be cleared to play by District 2’s eligibility committee, and that ruling can be appealed to the WIAA.

Shelton said he only spoke out because he had heard from “a very reliable source” that Crawford was involved in persuading Anderson to transfer.

“Jamal understands more than anybody the importance of not crossing the line with kids,” Bethea said. “Just for the fact that he and our program is under such a magnifying glass. He was really hurt by that accusation.”

It came a year after another Tacoma coach, Foss’ Mike Cocke’, expressed his concerns in a post on Twitter.

“Anyone interested in recruiting my players to other high schools, please contact me directly,” Cocke’ posted to his Foss basketball Twitter account.

Cocke’ had said that it came after his star player, TNT All-Area player of the year Roberto Gittens, told him of people who were recruiting him to leave Foss.

Gittens stayed in Tacoma and earned a scholarship offer from Washington State University (though he is now at the College of Southern Idaho with hopes to still join WSU in the future) and helped the Falcons win their first state title since 2000.

“They were on me,” Gittens said last year. “It’s like it’s supposed to be like 2K (an NBA video game). You lose and you go pick a new team. I don’t know how people can do that.”

“I’m proud of him,” Cocke’ said. “He’s a legitimate D-I kid and he didn’t want to go join one of the superpowers. He wanted to stay here, and that says a lot about his character.”

Anderson was expected to be one of five returning starters from Lincoln’s history-making team last season – which graduated four seniors.

It reminded Wilson coach Dave Alwert of his 2014 team that reached the semifinals behind three sophomores and a junior. The following offseason, though, TNT All-Area forward Alphonso Anderson transferred to Garfield and point guard Ivy Smith Jr. transferred to Rainier Beach.

“It’s such a difficult subject,” Alwert said. “I don’t know how you stop this. It’s so hard to build a relationship and do things the way we want to do it, just for the fact that it is turning into mercenaries.”

UW’s David Crisp transferred from Clover Park to Rainier Beach for his senior year in 2015.

Alwert said he believes that part of it is an idea that players are more likely to get recruited to play in college if they transfer.

Wilson’s Alphonso Anderson ended up getting a scholarship offer to Montana. But so did Bobby Moorehead, who played in Tacoma for four years at Stadium. Smith plays at Grambling State.

Lincoln’s Trevante Anderson had scholarship offers from Portland State, Montana and Seattle U. And he played on the same AAU team this offseason as Timberline’s Erik Stevenson, who is committed to Wichita State, and now-UConn committ Emmitt Matthews Jr. of Wilson.

Trevante Anderson was expected to play a leading role for the Abes again this year, earning a spot on The News Tribune’s first-team All-Area and second-team TNT all-state (all classifications). He was a first-team all-state selection for the 3A classification as voted by state sportswriters.

“(Transferring) is not always what’s best for them,” Shelton said. “That’s the problem – this grass-is-always-greener mentality. It’s not always.

“You look at our roster vs. (Rainier Beach’s) roster at state and we had more guys coming back, we had a ton of chemistry and he’s already had a ton of success here and already played in front of a bunch of Division I coaches. What more could you get from moving? Plus everyone here and all his teachers loved him. It didn’t make sense for him to leave to an unknown where he doesn’t know his role and who else they are bringing in.”

The WIAA discourages athletic recruiting and transferring, saying its rules against transferring encourage fair play, protects the integrity of interscholastic athletic programs and prevents athletes who have been at a school from being replaced by one who transfers in.

If student-athletes don’t meet the transfer-student requirements in the WIAA handbook, they are ineligible to play varsity sports for one season.

But a student who makes a change of residence into a new school district would be eligible, of if they have a viable “hardship” case that passes before a committee. And if a player does transfer, the WIAA handbook states that there can be no evidence that either the student transferred for the purpose of participating in athletics or transferred as a result of having been recruited for the purpose of playing sports.

“Recruiting of students or attempted recruiting of students for athletic purposes is prohibited, regardless of their residence,” the WIAA handbook states. And they can’t be offered any remunerations or be special inducement of any kind, either – such as money, room and board, clothing, transportation, employment of a family unit, promising a college scholarship or free or reduced rent.

“Kids transfer and do different things, but look at the history of Garfield and Beach,” Shelton said. “When you have a repeated history of kids transferring in, not just kids in Seattle, but kids from around the state and out of state, on a yearly basis, you can’t tell me there’s not some sort of recruiting.”

But Jonathan Anderson said Trevante could have stayed in Tacoma, if he wanted to. His mother still lives here and his siblings stay there, but Trevante has been living with his father the past two years and decided he’d move to Seattle with him, Jonathan said.

“If he really wanted to, he would still be here (in Tacoma),” Jonathan Anderson said. “Tre, with all the success he’s had, has been a little frustrated with basketball for quite some time. He’s never had anything negative to say about Aubrey and he’s always had positive things to say about Lincoln, but Aubrey has been creating this narrative that Tre was happy here and everything was all good and he just suddenly ups and leaves. And that’s just not the case.”

And Bethea said he wouldn’t risk his reputation, which includes eight state titles and multiple NBA players who have come through his program, just to recruit Trevante Anderson. And he said he had seven of his own players transfer out of his program this offseason.

“People are going to think and say things,” Bethea said. “I’ve been listening to this stuff since 1998 when Jamal burst onto the scene. Not to sound cocky, but what more do I have to do? I’m in this business to mold kid’s character and at the end of the day, if we’re in it for anything other than that we’re in it for the wrong reasons.”

When Shelton spoke out about it on Twitter, he said he was surprised to see backlash from Isaiah Thomas, the former Curtis star who transferred to South Kent School in Connecticut for his senior year before starring at the UW and now the NBA.

“Stop crying to WIAA. Stop trying to tell the district on people like damn (you’re) way (too) old ... for all of this. I’m not even in the state of Washington and all I see is you whining about what somebody else did,” Thomas tweeted to Shelton. The tweets were also visible to the rest of Thomas’ almost 880,000 followers.

“If kids are going somewhere to help (their) future and get college paid for, so be it. … You over there program watching everybody else’s stuff. Just stop do YOUR job and coach YOUR school … you blaming the WIAA and Beach and Garfield. At least they genuinely care about the damn kids and want what’s best for them … I’m tired of grown men crying like little kids man. Let kids do what they feel is best … I’ve watched it for years behind the scenes and it’s a sad game that (you’re) playing.”

He also criticized Shelton, saying no kid in Lincoln’s program wants to sub five players at a time.

“I know that for a fact!! Stop with the shenanigans bro,” Thomas tweeted.

Shelton responded throughout to Thomas, wondering why it wouldn’t be good for Anderson to return to Lincoln, where he was a team captain, league MVP, all-state pick, and one of five returning starters on a team that was 26-0 and went further in the state tournament at the Tacoma Dome this past year than Rainier Beach did.

“It would be like if you voluntarily left the (Boston Celtics) for the Cavs – could have been the man that beat them, now just second or 3rd fiddle,” Shelton tweeted in a response to Thomas.

“I get you think I’m hating on a kid but it’s the complete opposite, truly believe the best place for him is at Lincoln.”

Shelton also pointed to Lincoln’s basketball players having a 98 percent graduation rate in the past 10 years since Shelton took over as a former Lincoln player. And 90 percent of them have gone to college, more than 30 have played in college (currently 15) and the Abes have won six league titles, six district titles and been to the state tournament nine of the 10 years. And he refuted that he so often subs five players at a time.

“If I stay silent I’m a punk and if I speak out against injustice and stand up for my program I’m ‘crying’ – lose/lose I guess,” Shelton tweeted to Thomas.

“You don’t know me or my program but appreciate your concern, you are welcome to come speak with me at Lincoln anyday, always been a big fan.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677