LAKE OSWEGO, OR (KPTV) – The high school basketball season is winding down towards playoff time and for the first time in a while, the Lake Oswego boys are in contention for a state title, holding firm at No. 1 in the latest OSAA 6A rankings.
One of the Lakers’ senior leaders has taken the tough road to travel towards senior night.
School, gym, home – it’s a daily cycle for high school athletes, but what happens when you don’t have a place to go home to, and if you do, your family isn’t there?
Lake Oswego's Fred Harding wasn’t born on easy street, but the kid is grateful for everything he has earned.
Harding sure can dunk, and above the rim is where his headspace is clear.
“Just being able to bang-out in game and have the crowd cheer you on, it gives you chills,” Harding said. “It feels like everything is just focused, it's pretty pinpoint.”
If only the rest of life could be a slam dunk.
“I come from a pretty rough background. Money is a real issue, especially with my family because I have so many siblings,” Harding said.
Harding has seven siblings, and the 18-year-old is the second oldest of eight kids. That's why the $2,500 check Fred the fourth received at the Les Schwab Invitational meant so much to him and so many around him.
“Receiving that money, being able to help myself, is to help my family,” Harding said.
More than once, Harding and his family have been homeless.
“It’s not really what I expected,” he said.
High school life is hard enough. Try being displaced from your rental home with your large family moving in another direction.
“When it first happened, I stayed with my aunt for a little bit, slept on her couch for a few months,” Harding said.
In order to remain at LO, where he grew up with his fellow seniors, Harding has moved in with a helpful neighbor, while the family is split between Sherwood and Tigard.
“It takes my mind off everything else that is going on in my life, whether it's not being able to see my mom or sisters or be around my family and it's just the home away from home,” he said.
“Greatness for him will be learning from this experience and for him being a better father, a better son and hopefully a productive member of society,” said Lake Oswego head basketball coach Marshall Cho.
Ruled academically ineligible for the second half of freshman year, Harding dug out the hole by truly applying himself in assisted study hall.
“They are real contributing factors in placing those values in me,” he said.
Coachable on the court and in the classroom, coach Cho was one of those study hall leaders who pushed the big kid to be better.
“It's the choices that he’s made since then to invest in his academics, really invest to be part of this community, on and off the court, that’s allowed him to be in a place where he has relationships and can ask for help if he needs them,” Cho said.
Harding said, “When he yells at me… yeah, that's him showing he cares and I realize that. Everything he does for me, I appreciate greatly… The main driving factor for me is to play this game and to be on this team.”
Money isn’t the end-all, be-all.
“Whenever I get a buck, my dad's like, you don’t have that buck. Save it,” Harding said.
But at the same time, you can be living rich.
“Be that person that is always thriving to be better. Be a better you to get where you want to be in life,” Harding said.
Cho said, “Fred, if anything, his legacy that he’ll leave behind is challenging us as adults here as coaches, to really know the person first before the player.”
Harding was a member of the Lakers football state championship team in the fall. Track awaits in the spring ahead of graduation and hopefully some type of college scholarship to hoop and learn. He wants to serve and protect and be a police officer.
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