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Woodburn graduate decommits from Staint Martin's, will play this fall in nearby Monmouth

PMG FILE PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Former Woodburn High School All-State basketball player R.J. Veliz announced via Twitter on July 31 that he will play this fall for the Western Oregon Wolves.Former Woodburn High School basketball standout R.J. Veliz will start his collegiate career a little closer to home than anticipated after he announced on July 31 that he would be playing for the Western Oregon University Wolves this fall.

A first-team All-State guard at the 4A level for the Woodburn Bulldogs this past spring, Veliz initially committed to play for Division II Saint Martin's University in May, but announced via Twitter that he had received his release from the Lacey, Washington Catholic School earlier in July.

"About two weeks ago I received my release from St. Martin's because I did not feel it was going to be the right place for me for a multitude of reasons," Veliz wrote. "I still want to thank St. Martin's for the opportunity to play the game I love at such a high level."

The Saints are coming off its most successful season in program, going 26-6 overall and 17-3 to win the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC), earning its first Sweet 16 berth in the Division II tournament in school history.

On May 3, the Saints announced that four-year head coach Alex Pribble was leaving the program to take an assistant position at D1 Seattle University. Aaron Landon was later announced as the new head coach on May 20.

In his high school career, Veliz played his first three years for the Blanchet Catholic Cavaliers in Salem before transferring to Woodburn High School in his hometown for his senior season, helping to lead the Bulldogs to a 22-6 record and a fifth-place finish in the 4A state tournament.

In February, Veliz became the 22nd player in Oregon boys high school history to score more than 2,000 career points.

PMG FILE PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Veliz garnered First Team All-State recognition after leading the Bulldogs to a fifth-place finish in the 2019  4A tournament, the best placement for the boys basketball program since 1995.In his transition to Western Oregon University, Veliz follows in the footsteps of another All-State Woodburn athlete — Andy Avgi — who played basketball for the Wolves from 2011-16.

A three-time Mid-Willamette Conference Player of the Year for the Bulldogs, Avgi led the boys basketball team to an 18-9 record and a 5A state quarterfinal appearance in 2011.

Avgi initially was recruited to the Oregon State football team as a preferred walk-on after graduating, but transferred to Western Oregon before taking a snap with the Beavers.

He went on to enjoy a successful five-year career with the Wolves, twice earning GNAC Player of the Year while helping to lead the Wolves to a 31-4 record and a Final Four apperance in the NCAA DII tournament as a senior for the 2015-16 season.

Four years later, Veliz joins a Western Oregon team that is coming off a respectable 22-11 season and a first round loss in the NCAA DII tournament to top-seeded Point Loma in March.


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