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Basketball duo with roots in Central Kitsap and Bremerton making names for themselves at Seattle University
Jarell Flora stood at the free throw line and missed.
Right there to grab the rebound was Brandon Durham.
Flora, a 2010 Bremerton High School graduate and Durham, a 2009 Central Kitsap High School graduate, have been here before.
Not here, not on the hardwood at KeyArena in downtown Seattle, the home court of the Seattle University Redhawks. The first time they met was as teammates in the Warren Avenue Pee Wee Association.
Now the two have developed a friendship in the big city, sometimes reminiscing about their days in Bremerton and Central Kitsap when Durham gives Flora a ride back to Bremerton for the occasional weekend trip.
“It’s kind of nice to have someone to talk to when we go home and we share old memories,” Durham said. “I never really talked to him before because I’m from Silverdale and he’s from Bremerton. We didn’t have that much in common.
“It would be totally different if we were both from Bremerton, so even though we’re close, things are still different,” Durham added.
Two athletes from the two Kitsap communities still manage to connect now that they play under the same roof and study in the same library. Both are known for being quiet, but they share a connection to the Kitsap Peninsula that’s strengthened the relationship.
“We really didn’t open up with each other until later,” said Durham, who is playfully teased with Flora by teammates from the Seattle area. “The guys give us a hard time. We’re told we’re soft because we’re from Kitsap, so it’s cool to have Jarell there as a friend and teammate.”
Despite producing minimal playing time for Seattle University this season, the basketball tandem often share jabs about the Cougars and Knights basketball rivalry. Durham likes to remind Flora that Central Kitsap beat Bremerton, 85-60 in 2008. Durham didn’t play because the season conflicted with football at the time, but the Cougars managed a win, anyway.
“I always give Jarell a hard time about that,” he said. “CK won by 25 and I wasn’t even out there. I told him to get his guys together so we can play at the Y.”
Durham followed his own path to Seattle, which included stints with Lane Community College (Ore.) and the select basketball program, West Side Hoops.
The 6-foot-7 forward earned the nickname “Diesel” by his teammates at Central Kitsap High School, where he led the Cougars with 15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in his senior season.
He thought about attending Olympic College when he graduated high school, but Durham wanted to mature and leave home on his own. He said he doesn’t get homesick because home is just a ferry ride away. The former Cougars standout has no regrets.
“It’s definitely more of a commitment right now than anything I’ve ever done in my life,” he added. “I missed the Super Bowl to come in for study hall to work on a philosophy paper. I have a chance to get a great education but I’ve really got to earn it and I earn it everyday.”
Seattle University head coach Cameron Dollar scouted Durham with the belief that the 220-pound power forward could bully opponents in the paint while also playing stout defense.
“Brandon provides a strong presence in the post and scores well,” Dollar said. “He can rebound and defend very well. He’s another great kid who works hard and continues to improve his game.”
Flora committed to Seattle University last March after he was offered a full-ride scholarship by Dollar. He was scouted during the Knights’ district tournament game against Lakes High School. Former coach Casey Lindberg suggested to his friend, Dollar, that Flora had potential.
Dollar was convinced.
“He plays with a high motor, and he’s just a great kid who works hard,” Dollar said. “And now he’s got a chance to be pretty good here.”
Flora, a 6-foot-3 guard who won the Olympic League most valuable player award by averaging 22 points and 11.7 rebounds per game last season, said he was surprised to find himself at such a high level of college basketball in a short amount of time.
“It was really unexpected when it all happened,” he said. “Coach just made me an offer, and now I need to work hard and be a step closer to my dream of playing pro basketball, either overseas or in the NBA someday. I’m taking it as a grace from God, playing at this level and working my hardest every day.”
Lindberg, who led the Knights to a state tournament last season with Flora, said he was somewhat surprised by how fast his former player earned a spot at a Division I school, but he knows it’s a fit.
Flora remains on the bench for Seattle University as a freshman, while Durham is a sophomore who has had time in all 22 games this season. He’s currently averaging 3.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game for the Redhawks.
“Jarell knows he’s not going to get everything that he wants right now,” Lindberg added. “He’s not afraid to put in the time and work hard, even if he doesn’t get all the glory at first. So it’s all his attitude and personality.”
Flora said the basketball community is growing in his hometown as it produces more athletes, such as Marvin Williams, a Bremerton grad who won an NCAA national title with the University of North Carolina before being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks. Lindberg also believes the West Sound could be home to more breakout players as long as coaches put in the effort.
“Local players need to be playing in places like Seattle to get their exposure,” Lindberg said.