Commentary

Eighth-grade prodigy finds her place

Updated: August 28, 2009, 8:08 PM ET
By Mindi Rice | HoopGurlz

Jaime Nared has been around basketball most of her young life, playing wherever a basketball and a hoop were available.

[+] EnlargeJaime Nared
Glenn Nelson for ESPN.comEighth-grader Jaime Nared drew national attention playing on a boys' team.
A rising eighth grader at Stoller Middle School in Beaverton, Ore., Nared attracts attention for her long 6-foot-1 frame and her basketball skills. A year ago, she made her national news debut, but not entirely for her game.

In her second year playing on a boys' spring-league team, Nared's coach, Michael Abraham, was asked to remove her from the team by the facility that hosted the league, The Hoop in Beaverton. It sparked a media firestorm that eventually led to a change of ownership and management at The Hoop as well as a move for Nared to join the top girls' team in Abraham's program.

"This is a much calmer summer," Abraham said in July. "Now she gets to reap the reward of all that negative stuff last year."

Nared spent her first days of basketball following around her older sister, Jackie, a 4-year-old watching a 10-year-old work on her game.

Soon, Nared was right on sister Jackie's heels. As Nared developed her game, her skills and height grew faster than her age. So her father, Greg Nared, and Abraham sought new challenges. Putting Nared on a girls' team her own age wasn't helping her or her teammates and her father didn't want his young daughter to be traveling to major tournaments with a team full of high school girls.

But a same-age boys' team wouldn't have the travel-heavy schedule and would have a higher level of competition, so Abraham, the Team Concept director, had Nared join the boys. No one blinked twice the first year.

However, one spring day as a sixth grader, playing with the boys' team for the second year, Nared scored 30 in a spring-league game. Shortly after, Abraham received a call from The Hoop, the Beaverton facility that hosted the league, reminding him about the rarely enforced rule that didn't allow mixed-gender play. Abraham believes it was pressure from parents, while Hoop staff at the time denied that.

At first, as neither Abraham nor Hoop management at the time would back down, the story caught a spark of media attention that grew into a wildfire.

"It was sad because Jaime got thrown in this maelstrom of adult arguments, but it was really a maturing process for her," Abraham said. "She reacted like a champion, like the mature young adult that she is. Her family handled it with dignity but with fierceness."

After national publicity, including the local news channels, an ESPN E:60 interview and all the way up to "Good Morning America," Nared went to one of the older girls' teams in the Team Concept program. The management at The Hoop changed hands.

[+] EnlargeJaime Nared
Glenn Nelson for ESPN.com Jaime Nared, a 2014 prospect, played this summer with a team of 2010s.
Now, at home on the Team Concept top girls' team during the summers, Nared is starting to get more attention for her play than for her experience gone bad with The Hoop in Beaverton and the boys' team.

"I'm a huge advocate of women's sports, and a huge fan of sports in general," Greg Nared said. "I played the game for a long time. To me, it was unacceptable at that level. Different levels, it's a little bit different, but at that level, it shouldn't be an issue."

Nared comes from a family rich in basketball blood. Her father, who was recently hired as the Westview High School coach in Beaverton, played at Maryland, where Jackie, a 2008 Westview graduate, is starting her redshirt freshman season.

When Nared first joined the boys' team, a full year before any issues arose, it was almost out of necessity more than anything.

"She was so much physically bigger than kids her own age, it was almost difficult for her to play with kids her own age," Abraham said. "And early, we didn't have any problems whatsoever with her, at The Hoop facility or anywhere else."

And Nared enjoyed it. She had no qualms switching it up to play with the boys in her age group.

"I didn't really even feel a difference [playing with the boys team]," Nared said. "I just got used to it and I liked it a lot. There was no tension with my teammates."

Now, the attention Nared gets is for her game. A 2014 prospect, she played with a team of mostly 2010s during the summer, drawing college coaches to her courts to get a head start on their future recruiting.

"She's always been great, it's just taken people a while," Abraham said. "Sometimes people miss the really great kids. It's not that we try to [push them onto the spotlight] at the seventh grade, but she deserves it."

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Mindi Rice is a National High School / ESPN HoopGurlz staff writer. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and a barista at Starbucks, and grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. She can be reached at mindi@hoopgurlz.com.