Rainier Beach guard MarJon Beauchamp surges down the court in what looks like six long strides—his movement more fluid and graceful than one might expect from a sprouting teenager—to deliver a smooth two-point layup. Rainier Beach High School’s packed gym bleachers buckle and buzz. Collective oohs rise from the crowd. When the lithe six-foot-six junior has the ball again he pauses, then swiftly slips through the defense to attack the rim. Another two points. Halfway through the fourth quarter, when Beach leads by six, Beauchamp cuts to the edge of the arc and sinks a silky three-pointer.
Meet the class of 2020’s most promising basketball star in Washington, a state that’s one of the most productive in the country for churning out NBA talent—23.4 percent more players per capita than California. Beauchamp’s current school stands out in particular. Rainier Beach has sent more alumni to the league than any other high school in the state. It’s no wonder the 18-year-old is one of the most sought-after college prospects in the nation.
The Rainier Beach Vikings—number three Class 3A team in the state and, by USA Today’s measure, 14th in the U.S. four weeks into the season—have competed for the state title every year since 2012. They’ve won the championship four times out of the last seven. Longtime Rainier coach Mike Bethea attributes that success to the school’s “winning culture,” which catches the attention of recruiters. “I know what they’re looking for and that’s how I try to coach my players.”
It’s not uncommon for families to relocate to the city to join the talent pool. MarJon’s father, Jon, moved him from Yakima to Seattle to play in the city’s more competitive games under strong coaches. Beauchamp’s gone to three schools in as many years and helped each team win state championships. He’s looking to claim a third with the Vikings this year (Feb 27–March 2 at the Tacoma Dome).
In his 2020 class, Beauchamp’s the highest-ranked recruit from Washington, according to ESPN, amassing, so far, 10 offers from Division I schools with elite basketball programs, including UCLA, University of Arizona, and University of Washington.
How does a teenager navigate it all? Former Vikings Jamal Crawford of the Phoenix Suns and Dejounte Murray of the San Antonio Spurs return to their alma mater to mentor young men like Beauchamp. “They give me advice on how to lead my team...and support me,” he says. And, while his dream is to make it to the NBA, his mission is “to take care of my family and give back to my community.”
Rainier Beach isn’t just a talent machine, it’s a tight-knit family.