After three knee injuries dampered his basketball career, CJ Sitton earns a spot on OSU's golf team

by: VERN UYETAKE - West Linn's CJ Sitton battled knee injuries that hindered his basketball career but he found his sport in golf.As a kid, had you told CJ Sitton that he would one day attend Oregon State University on an athletic scholarship, he likely would have assumed it would be for basketball.

After all, Sitton's father, Charlie, is a legend within the Beavers' program, leading the team to the No. 1 ranking in the nation in 1981 and eventually being elected into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame.

CJ Sitton naturally grew up around basketball and his tall physique and knowledge of the game made him a standout. He played on traveling teams as a youth and, as he entered high school, he was a big part of an exceptionally strong class of basketball players.

However, had you told Sitton after his sophomore year that he would earn an athletic scholarship to a Division I school, he may have laughed.

Sitton experienced a lifetime's worth of bad luck that year. In his fourth game of the season, taking on rival Wilsonville with plenty of friends and former teammates on the court and in the stands, Sitton slipped and hyper-extended his knee, dislocating his kneecap in the process.

After going through physical therapy and strength conditioning, he was able to return to the court for the playoffs as West Linn advanced to the state semifinals.

However, just two practices into his summer AAU schedule, Sitton blew out his knee again. Two weeks later, Sitton, in what he admits was an ill-advised decision, played in a pick-up game and injured the same knee for the third time.

“The second time was really frustrating because I felt like I was back close to 100 percent,” Sitton said.

This time, in order to stave off permanent damage to the joint, Sitton opted for surgery, flying down to Los Angeles for the procedure.

The recovery would ultimately wipe out his junior season of basketball where West Linn won its first state title since 1997.

But an interesting thing happened as Sitton was recovering from his traumatic injury. He began playing more golf. While he had always enjoyed the game, first playing with his father from 150 yards and in at Langdon Farms, he started to focus on his game.

Sitton recovered in time to play golf his junior year and came into his own, qualifying for state and finishing 15th overall.

That summer, Sitton played in junior tournaments, taking 12th in an American Junior Golf Association event along the way.

“That was when I knew that golf was probably going to be my thing,” Sitton said.

Sitton continued to golf through the offseason and began his senior basketball season with a clean bill of health.

However, early on in the winter, Sitton suffered a concussion that sidelined him for two weeks. That would be the final setback of his high school career.

“Senior year I came in prepared. We had seven or eight seniors on the team, guys I had grown up playing with,” Sitton said.

Sitton returned and made an impact for the Lions off the bench. His size and passing ability gave West Linn needed depth in the paint and his soft touch from long range made him a difficult defensive match-up.

“I was never the guy that people relied on to score a ton of points. I was always the guy who would come in off the bench and get a few rebounds and assists and maybe hit some 3s,” Sitton said.

The highlight of the year may have come during the Lions' opening playoff game against Century where he drained four consecutive three-pointers as fans began chanting the nickname “3-J”.

Sitton would continue to contribute for the Lions as they made a dominant run to a second straight state title.

Sitton didn't miss a beat on the golf course either, starting the spring season immediately after hoisting the basketball trophy at the Rose Garden.

He quickly assumed the role as the team's low scorer and the Lions emerged as the clear No. 2 team in the exceedingly strong Three Rivers League only behind Lake Oswego.

West Linn qualified for state as a team with Sitton carding a stellar 65 on the opening day of districts.

At state, he shot rounds of 72 and 76 back-to-back to finish sixth individually and help West Linn take third as a team, its best finish in school history.

Also in the spring, Sitton decided to follow in his dad's footsteps, choosing to attend Oregon State University over his second choice, Gonzaga.

At the time, he was unaware if the school would be interested in him for its golf team. A day after graduation in June, he received the call that he was on the team.

“I wasn't really even thinking about golf when I committed. I just figured if it happened, it happened,” Sitton said.

The fall season begins in early September and Sitton hopes to make an early impression by qualifying to play in tournaments for the varsity squad.

And the knee?

“It's still sore sometimes but I don't usually feel it. I've seen the toll that basketball has taken on my dad's body. It hasn't given me any problems in my golf game,” Sitton said.

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