Donovyn Hunter and Kennedie Shuler currently live some 300 miles apart. Next year, they’ll be Oregon State teammates.
Friday, they were opponents, leaders of their team looking for a berth in the Class 6A girls basketball state championship game. It was over almost as quickly as it started, as Hunter’s South Medford Panthers overwhelmed Shuler’s Barlow Bruins 71-33 at Chiles Center.
Hunter looked the part of a future college standout. The 6-foot guard hit 9 of 12 shots, scored 23 points and had four assists, four steals and four rebounds. During the first six minutes, Hunter had two backcourt strips that she converted into layups, and another backcourt deflection that led to South Medford points.
It was a tough afternoon for Shuler’s Bruins. She scored 18 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough as South Medford’s withering full-court style wore out Barlow.
Hunter and Shuler, who signed with OSU last November, described the game as fun, even though the outcome wasn’t so much for the Bruins.
“We’ve gotten to know each other. We have a lot of care for each other. There wasn’t any bad blood,” Hunter said. “It’s bittersweet, because you never want to go against your future teammate for something so memorable your senior year.”
Shuler said she and Hunter are close. Familiar with each other after several summers of AAU ball, Shuler and Hunter keep in touch by phone. They took their Oregon State official recruiting visit on the same weekend.
“It was fun today playing Dono. Obviously we have a bunch of respect for each other. We love each other at the end of the day,” Shuler said.
A half-dozen future Oregon State teammates were in the stands watching Friday’s game. The Beavers’ five freshmen came to Wednesday’s tournament quarterfinal games to watch South Medford and Barlow games. Shuler said several OSU players attended a couple of their games earlier this season.
“It’s crazy,” Shuler said. “At the beginning of the recruiting process with them, they say we’re family. A lot of other coaches and teams say that, too, but they show it. So it’s really special.”
Hunter said having her future teammates come and watch is proof she made the right choice of colleges.
“A lot of people focus on the name of a school or what’s going good this year. I was more focused on how the head coach was going to be. Scott (Rueck) does a really good job getting to know us individually as people,” Hunter said.
Hunter guarded Shuler from the outset, which the Barlow senior expected. She figures it’s a warmup for the next four years of OSU practice.
“I can’t wait. It’s gonna be super fun,” Shuler said.
Shuler’s best sport she says is soccer. A first-team all-stater this past season, Shuler received some Division I soccer offers, but decided during the pandemic to focus on basketball.
“I don’t regret my decision,” she said.