Harthun verbally commits to WSU

South Medford High junior Michael Harthun gave a verbal agreement to play basketball at Washington State University during a ceremony Saturday afternoon in Pullman, Wash.

Harthun, who helped lead the Panthers to the Class 6A boys basketball title in March, had been in town since Friday checking out the school and interacting with some of the Cougar players.

"Once I was up here and felt as comfortable as I did, 100 percent of me knew that this is where I want to go," Harthun said while en route to an AAU tournament in Seattle.

The 6-foot-3 point guard averaged 20 points and 4.7 assists during the regular season for South Medford, and was a driving force behind his team's run to its first-ever state title. Harthun scored a team-high 24 points in the championship game against Lake Oswego — sinking all five of his 3-pointers — and ranked fourth in the state tourney at 20 points per game.

Harthun had also received interest from schools like Oregon, Oregon State and Gonzaga, but the connection forged with WSU head coach Tony Bennett and his assistants proved to be the ultimate drawing card.

"All the other coaches I've talked to throughout the whole (recruiting process), I haven't made the connection with them like I have with the coaches (at Washington State)," said Harthun.

"I just feel like it was a good fit for me here," he added. "They just made me feel really comfortable and like they needed and wanted me."

Washington State coaches are not allowed to comment on a player until a letter-of-intent is signed and in their possession. A verbal agreement is not binding, and the official signing period for basketball is not until November.

Still, Harthun said he's not likely to change his mind between now and then.

"I'm really excited," he said. "It feels really good to know what I'm going to be doing after next year. I feel comfortable with my decision."

Harthun said the Cougars had a barbecue set up for him Saturday, and he came down a ramp with music blaring in the background to make his announcement. There was also a No. 11 jersey on a nearby chair for him, and a video of his highlights playing in the background during the ceremony.

"They lose Derrick Low when I come in (for the 2008-09 season)," Harthun said of the all-star guard, "and hopefully I can come in and make a big impact as a freshman."

"The Pac-10, in my opinion, is either the top or at least among the top two conferences in the country," he added, "so I'm excited to be able to play Pac-10 basketball."

Harthun said the Cougars plan to use him as a combo guard, meaning he'll play some at the point and some at shooting guard.

"They said they'll have me coming off screens and I'll also be bringing the ball up sometimes, too, so that's kind of exciting," he said.

Harthun said he had been seriously considering remaining in the state of Oregon to play for the Ducks "but they ended up not offering yet." He also said he didn't consider Oregon State a serious option.

Washington State notched a 26-8 record this past season, losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in a double-overtime thriller against Vanderbilt. The 26 wins tied WSU's 1941 national runner-up squad for the most in school history, and the Cougars made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1994. WSU notched its highest finish in the Pac-10 by taking second at 13-5.

Despite being in his first year at the helm, Bennett was the recipient of six major coach of the year awards, including the Naismith Award.

While Harthun's collegiate future appears well in hand, his immediate high school future is still undecided. His family's home in Medford is still up for sale and they intend to move closer to the Portland area this summer, but no decisions have been made yet.

"We're just kinda looking around and don't really know right now where we'll be," said Harthun.

In the meantime, Harthun said he'll continue to be busy as a member of the Oregon Rebels traveling AAU team. The Rebels, who also feature Sheldon's Blake Poole and Aloha's Michael Boswell, recently advanced to the final 16 in the Las Vegas Spring Showcase. After this weekend's tourney in Seattle, Harthun will continue to play in more events in the Las Vegas and Los Angeles areas before attending the Nike All-American Camp later this summer.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com

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