Lake Oswego basketball coach Marshall Cho helps coach the World team at the Nike Hoop Summit.
There was a lot to take in at the 2023 Nike Hoop Summit.
You had the first iteration of the USA vs. World women’s game.
You had the best male high school players in the world squaring off yet again, this year with West Linn senior star Jackson Shelstad as a member of the USA team.
You had NBA stars LeBron James and Draymond Green sitting courtside, and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr in the crowd at the Moda Center on Saturday, April 8.
But there was another local Summit story that went under the radar.
There, helping coach the World men’s team, was Lake Oswego High School boys varsity head coach Marshall Cho.
How it happened
Cho, 46, has served as the Lakers head coach since the 2015-16 season, but also has a long history working with USA Basketball that led him to a spot on the sidelines at the Nike Hoop Summit.
Indeed, Cho’s first experience with USA basketball came way back in 2012 when he was a third-year assistant coach at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. DeMatha head coach Mike Jones and senior star James Robinson had been selected as members of the USA team, and Cho got to accompany them as a support staff member.
Over the next two years while he served as Director of Basketball Operations at the University of Portland, Cho’s work with USA Basketball took place behind the scenes. He helped start the tradition of the USA team scrimmage — held before this year’s event at Lake Oswego High School — nine years ago and recruited local college players to participate each year.
“(It’s) an honor and I’ve had a chance to go work (as a court coach at) October mini-camps, Final Four camps and really gotten to know a lot of these USA players that we competed against,” Cho said.
From that long association, and because of Cho’s own international background — his parents brought their family to America from South Korea when he was 10 years old — Cho got a chance to switch teams for this year’s Nike Hoop Summit.
“A couple months ago, I got a call from Nike,” he said. “They had been courting me for a few years, but I was just so busy with my Lake O program and trying to make my way up USA basketball that I hadn’t really given it serious consideration until this time around.”
Cho said that some of his other recent basketball-related experiences — hosting incoming college players from South Korea and players and coaches from Taiwan — convinced him that the opportunity to work with the World men’s team was just too compelling to pass up.
“I felt this tug of trying to get back to my worldly coaching roots so it was great honor,” he said. “It was a great opportunity and I took it. It was an eye-opening experience, I learned a ton, and hopefully, it’ll make me a better coach.”
Making the team
Working with World head coach Kaleb Canales — a former assistant and interim head coach with the Portland Trail Blazers (he’s also assisted with the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks) — for a week leading up to the Hoop Summit, Cho helped turn the World team into a cohesive unit.
While that might sound like a daunting task — the team included 13 players from 11 countries and four continents — Cho said it’s gotten easier over time as more and more international players attend prep schools in American before beginning their college careers. That was true for 10 members of this year’s World team.
“Traditionally, the makeup of the World roster included (players) from all over the world,” Cho said. “But over the past five or six years, more and more of these high-level players are coming to the U.S. to play at prep schools.
“So, ironically, this year, 10 out of 13 had already played here. Most of the (World team) kids have competed against many of the kids on the USA Basketball roster so that intimidation factor, over time, recedes a little bit.”
Korean heritage, American pride
Cho — an American citizen who also holds an American passport — said that his time with the World team made him reflect on his own heritage and also to appreciate his place in America.
“At the end of the day, my immigrant background is as a Korean American,” Cho said. “And even though some of the (World team) players were born and raised here, their parents are immigrants.
“It really allows you to understand how blessed we are in this country, that some of the best basketball players in the world actually … (are) here because their parents took that leap of faith.”
As much as he enjoyed working with the World team at the 2023 Hoop Summit, Cho said it wasn’t easy coaching against the USA team after all his work with USA Basketball. In the end, however, the chance to honor his heritage and family made it worth the venture.
“For me, a big part of accepting this position — even though it meant that I would be coaching against a USA Basketball organization that’s given me so many opportunities and the chance to grow and serve basketball in this country — it was an opportunity to honor my parents. It was an opportunity to demonstrate to my son what it means to take pride in my heritage, and also to take full advantage of what this country has to offer when it comes to basketball opportunities.”
Cho also relished the chance to learn from Canales — he grew up in Texas after his parents immigrated from Mexico — during the week-long Nike Hoop Summit experience.
While he undoubtedly absorbed some of the Xs and Os from Canales, Cho said that his biggest takeaway from working with a veteran NBA coach was the way that Canales communicated with his players. He also complimented Canales for his straightforward style, focus and the solid chemistry he helped develop with Cho and fellow assistant Akachi Okugo.
“I think the biggest thing I took away is just the tempo and the pace (of how) he teaches, how simple he kept everything,” Cho said. “He just had such a good pace of teaching in sound bites, and then moving on and really giving the players that space and room to show us what they’re capable of doing all throughout the week.”
And as a basketball fan himself, Cho also had moments of just enjoying the incredible skill on display throughout the week.
“This game is supposed to be fun and I think we succeeded on that,” he said. “And … it was fun to watch. I mean, there was so much, so much talent.”
The best part
Throughout his week with Canales and the World team, the glitz and showmanship of game night at the Moda Center — the USA team beat the World 90-84 — Cho had no hesitation in highlighting the best part of his experience.
“My absolute favorite part was just getting to experience it with my 12-year-old son (Nathaniel),” Cho said. “He got the chance to (attend) most of the practices, he got to meet the players, (and on game night), he was out there sitting in the second row.”
Welcoming the USA team to Lake Oswego’s gym for its scrimmage on April 7 — the World team held its pre-Summit scrimmage at the Blazers’ practice facility in Tualatin a day earlier — was another highlight for the Cho and his son.
“Just to watch them competing at the highest level in … Lake Oswego, for my son to witness that in the gym he grew up in, to see some of the best in the world are there, that was because of the relationships that I’ve been able to cultivate, both with Nike and (USA Basketball) over the last 10 years.”