Michael Harthun has recently worked with NBA star Steve Nash of Phoenix and competed in Ohio under the watchful eye of Cleveland’s LeBron James. - MT file photo

Harthun relishes summer run

While discussion continues on where he's going — or if he's going — these days Michael Harthun is mostly enjoying where he's been.

Harthun is coming off a whirlwind few weeks that have found him in New Jersey under the point guard tutelage of NBA star Steve Nash and competing against some of the best prep basketball players in the nation in Ohio under the watchful eye of LeBron James.

Not bad for a 17-year-old who is only four months removed from helping lead South Medford High to its first-ever boys basketball state title.

"I'm definitely just taking it in stride and enjoying every minute of it," Harthun said Wednesday.

And he's not done yet.

The 6-foot-3 guard recently was selected to compete in the Nike Global Challenge, an eight-team, 20-game basketball tournament featuring 40 elite players from the United States as well as players from the national and U19 teams of Canada, China, Puerto Rico and Senegal.

The Global Challenge will be held at the University of Portland's Chiles Center on July 29-31, with doors opening at 9 a.m. daily. Tickets are $5 for an all-day pass, with admission free for those 12 and under.

"I'm excited for it because I think it's a great opportunity to play good basketball," said Harthun, "but also we'll be playing all international rules. It'll be a different experience and a lot of fun."

Considering his already hectic travel schedule this summer, the notion of having such an elite event in his home state is another huge draw for Harthun.

"I've been having a lot of troubles with my flights lately," he said, "so I'm just glad it's up the road a little ways and I get to be close to home."

Airport woes aside, the only other thing slowing Harthun these days is where he'll be for his senior year in high school.

Harthun says his parents are "still pretty set on moving" from Medford to the Portland area, but not much more progress has been made on that front.

Instead of the teenager joining his family up north, there was talk of him going to a prep school in Connecticut but that is out now. South Kent School had wanted an answer from him on whether he'd be coming, but Harthun said he felt somewhat rushed by this past Monday's deadline for an answer and wasn't ready to make a decision.

In lieu of that, Harthun said he's entertaining two options: Attend Bridgton Academy, a prep school in Maine, or remain a Panther.

"I know that I just don't want to go to Portland," said Harthun, who turns 18 on July 31. "My options, in my head, are really South Medford or prep school. If it were going to come down to me moving, then I'd just go to the prep school. I really want to stay at South, but I have to decide."

Bridgton Academy is a postgraduate boarding school that features an elite-level basketball program that plays a national schedule, including games against South Kent School. Tuition, room and board at Bridgton Academy is about $37,000, but Harthun said a financial-aid package has already been made available to his family to lessen that cost.

Harthun said the school has given him until Aug. 4 to decide on venturing east.

"I'm trying not to take it down to the wire, but we'll see," he said.

In the meantime, Harthun said he's remained in contact with South Medford head coach Dennis Murphy on his situation.

"I've been talking to Murph and told him all about (Bridgton Academy), but he's still all about South," the all-state guard said with a laugh. "He's told me a couple times that I could just live here with him, but I don't know about that."

All jokes aside, Harthun said he and his family are doing their best to weigh all options and come out with the best possible result. Remaining with friends in his hometown and thriving in the role of senior leader have been cast against the challenges of going from one coast to the other to experience all a boarding school has to offer.

"I know I could grow as a person and a player (at Bridgton) because I'd be fighting for a starting spot and that could be good for me," said Harthun, "but, at the same time, I think I can grow a lot at South, too. Murph's a good coach and being a senior leader on a team makes you grow, too."

Either way, Harthun is already well on his way to making a big splash in the 2008-09 season for Washington State University. He gave his verbal commitment to the Cougars in May and remains content with that decision.

"I still feel good about my decision and I was hoping I'd feel this way," he said. "It feels good to be able to go out and enjoy playing basketball for all the right reasons."

He spent between seven and eight hours per day honing his ballhandling skills at the Nash camp, which ran June 28-July 2, and even learned how to come off screens better from the MVP himself.

"That was a great experience," said Harthun, who was in a class of about 20 point guards chosen. "Everybody had fun, but every player there is so serious about basketball that everyday everyone was challenging each other in trying to become as good as you could be."

When the venue switched to Ohio for the July 6-10 LeBron James Skills Academy, the point guards were joined by their fellow position players for more of a 5-on-5, game-situation camp.

"It was a lot of fun seeing all the good players at one camp," said Harthun, who matched up with the likes of standouts Greg Monroe and Tyreke Evans. "It didn't matter what team you were on because each team had such great players that they were all close."

At the end of the day, the experience gained far outweighed any concern over wins and losses.

"I felt really honored to be selected and I was just happy with how I did overall at the camps, showing I can have true point guard skills and not just make plays for myself," said Harthun. "It felt good to be able to make my teammates better."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail

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