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A precocious talent

Ron McKichan was a three-year baseball and basketball star for the Vikings


Ron McKichan certainly knew how to make a good first impression.by: NEWS-TIMES FILE PHOTO - Ron McKichan drives past a pair of West Linn players during his Forest Grove basketball career. McKichan starred on the hardcourt and also the baseball diamond during a career that earned him inclusion in the school's Athletic Hall of Fame.

A 1952 Forest Grove High School graduate, McKichan made the varsity team in both basketball and baseball as a freshman.

But he was no flash in the pan.

A solid scorer on the hardwood and a prodigious hitter on the baseball diamond, McKichan went on to letter three times and rack up numerous honors in both sports.

For his contributions to Forest Grove athletics, McKichan has been selected as a member of this year’s class for the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Along with the other members of the 2013 class, McKichan will be inducted into the hall in a ceremony slated for Sept. 28 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course.

“It’s a tremendous honor, I should say,” said McKichan, a longtime Portland resident, earlier this week.

McKichan, the youngest child among four siblings, was born in South Dakota and moved to Oregon when he was 10. His sports career started in the fourth or fifth grade and he played mostly casually in his boyhood, he said. He gravitated toward basketball and baseball right away, especially the latter sport.

“Baseball was the longest-lasting of the two, so I played more baseball than basketball,” said McKichan (whose last name is pronounced Mc-KEITH-an).

Even by his middle school years, McKichan’s athleticism was evident. Harold Engelen was a year ahead of McKichan at Forest Grove and a high school baseball and basketball teammate. In middle school, Engelen recalled, he played on a touch football team while McKichan the seventh grader had a team of his own.

“Already he was pushing up higher than his level, and then when he got into high school he was playing varsity as a freshman,” Engelen said.

Ken Haevernick also got an early look at the talented McKichan. When McKichan was in eighth grade, Haevernick was a freshman on the Vikings’ junior varsity basketball squad, which once took on McKichan’s middle school team.

“He was a very good athlete,” said Haevernick, a retired physician who now lives in Salem. “It was a challenge for us to play against him.”

Luckily for Haevernick, he and McKichan became teammates once the younger boy arrived at the high school. They both made the varsity squad for the 1948-49 season, McKichan’s freshman year, and it was the beginning of a beautiful partnership. McKichan, a 5-foot-10 guard, and Haevernick, a 6-2 forward, were not necessarily team standouts in that first varsity season, but they showed flashes of their future brilliance, each scoring in double figures on occasion for a team that fell to Hilhi in the District 9 tournament, just missing a state berth.

By McKichan’s sophomore season, he was ready to take charge. He was a speedy, offensive-minded guard, who, he said, took the ball to the hoop.

“Naturally, the whole point of it is scoring, so that pretty much took up all the time,” McKichan noted.

Haevernick also recalls him being a solid shot from further out from the basket.

“He brought the ball down. He was an excellent shooter. I was a forward, so I did most of my stuff breaking to the basket,” Haevernick recalled. “He either shot out there — and I wish we had three points at the time, we only had two then — or he would pass it to me if they doubled up on him. And that combination allowed us to get a lot of easy scores.”

As a sophomore, McKichan averaged 9.4 points per game in Tualatin-Yamhill Valley league play. He helped steer the Vikings to a 9-0 nonconference start, and the team also rattled off a win streak of six TYV contests on its way to a 7-7 mark and a tie for fourth place in the league. McKichan was named to the All-TYV second team that season, as was Haevernick.

McKichan’s basketball career hit its zenith in his junior season. The Vikings struggled for much of the year, winning just one nonconference game and failing to pick up their first TYV victory until well into January.

But McKichan was marvelous. He scored a career-high 30 points — an impressive total back in those times, especially without the benefit of the three-point line — in a 60-57 win against Oregon City. Remarkably, a Pioneer scored 31 points in that same game, so McKichan, who remembered hitting a number of foul shots that night, did not even earn high scoring honors.

The team rebounded over the course of the season to a 6-8 league mark, good for a tie for fifth place. The Vikings also made the District 9 semifinals. McKichan averaged 13.5 points for the year and 14.5 in TYV play. He was named a first team TYV all-star selection, one of two juniors on that top tier.

As good as McKichan was on the basketball court, he was probably even better on the ball field for his favored sport. A middle infielder and primarily a second baseman, he made a sparkling debut in his freshman season for the Vikings, batting .391 — good for fourth overall in the TYV.

“He could field the ball well and he had a strong arm, but he was always just a little higher than the rest of us on ability, and we kind of recognized it and accepted it,” Engelen said. “He was the star. He’d be the one that was written up in the paper, and if there was an all-star team, he would be on it.”

That summer of 1949, McKichan won a state title in American Legion play for a Hillsboro-based MacKenzie Motors squad.

By his junior season, it seemed, McKichan could hit practically any ball in sight. He batted 22-for-47 (.468) for the maroon and gold that year, to go along with 12 runs, five stolen bases and six RBIs. He struck out just three times that season and posted five of the team’s 10 extra base hits.

McKichan, who had been voted as senior class president at Forest Grove for the fall semester of his senior year, suffered what he described as a nervous breakdown and missed his final high school basketball and baseball seasons. He went on to become an all-conference player at the Oregon College of Education — now known as Western Oregon University — before graduating from the University of Oregon with a general studies degree and working in finance.

Now retired (“heavy on the tired,” he quipped), McKichan resides in Northeast Portland with his wife of 26 years, Patti. He is also the father of three adult children.

A number of former schoolmates and friends wrote emails and letters in support of McKichan’s inclusion in the Athletic Hall of Fame. So while he made such a mark as a precocious freshman all those years ago, his overall impression has been long-lasting.

As Haevernick put it: “All I can say is that I enjoyed very much playing with Ron those three years that I had a chance to play with him, and we had a very good time and memories that are very fond to this day.”



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