PORT ANGELES — With less than two months from his hiring to the start of practices to build a roster, new Peninsula College men’s basketball coach Bryce Jacobson leaned on members of his basketball past, present and future.
The Pirates open the 2023-24 season today against Green River at 4 p.m. at Tacoma Community College.
Members of the Port Angeles basketball community reached out to welcome Jacobson and let him know recent Port Angeles Roughriders standout Wyatt Dunning was back in town.
“It’s funny because I didn’t know who Wyatt was when I got to town,” Jacobson said. “But the first four or five days in PA, I had about six or seven people reach out to me about him. I connected with his dad [Matt] and then Wyatt, and he seemed really excited about joining the team.”
Dunning spent his freshman season playing for Yakima Valley, putting up 2.4 points per game on 40.4 percent shooting while only seeing the floor for 10 minutes per game.
The 2021-22 Peninsula Daily News All-Peninsula boys basketball MVP has impressed so far.
“He’s been shooting the ball really well, went to a jamboree a couple of weeks ago and he was on,” Jacobson said. “He has such a crafty style of play. He’s really good at the shot fakes, reading and seeing the floor. Able to give us some things we don’t get from other guys. Mentally, he plays a step ahead, he can pick on guys who aren’t as disciplined and catch them with shot fakes. He has a nice floater game around the rim. He’s been our most consistent shooter through the first two months (of practice) and it will be nice to have a local guy on the team and be able to play in front of his mom, dad, brother and sister and friends.”
A member of the Pirates’ 2011 Northwest Athletic Conference championship team, Jacobson pointed to his experiences at Peninsula to keep Peninsula’s four potential returning sophomores around in 2023-24.
“Starting a relationship with those guys and making them feel good about being back,” Jacobson said. “(Former head coach) Donald (Rollman) did such a great job here and his leaving was a shock to the system because they loved him. So I was able to convince them PC is a great place; I came back.”
Guard Ese Onakpoma (6-foot-5) started 26 of the Pirates’ 28 games last season, putting up 11.1 points per game on 54.9 percent shooting from the floor and grabbing 4.6 rebounds each time out.
“Ese might be the most athletic player in the NWAC,” Jacobson said. “He’s a soft-spoken guy who will lead with his actions this year. You watch him and you notice his high-flying action, but his defense, his on-ball defense, is outstanding. He helps us out in the rebound battle and he’s continuing to develop his shot. He’s been great to work with.”
Javon Ervin, another tall guard at 6-3, played in all 29 Peninsula games last winter, scoring 4.7 points on 37 percent shooting.
“Javon will be running the point with the main group and will play off ball some, too,” Jacobson said. “He scores in different ways, and defensively he can pick dudes up for a full 94 feet.”
North Kitsap product Aiden Olmstead is back.
“Aiden brings the intangible aspects,” Jacobson said. “He’s all in for the team and a focus on winning. His ability to rebound and be versatile will help us.”
Antonio Odum also returns and the 6-6 Las Vegas product will be part of the Pirates’ rotation, providing length and toughness.
A pre-existing relationship helped Jacobson land 6-5 Beni Njomo.
“Beni was born in Cameroon, and has been here in the U.S. since he was a kid. He played at Lincoln High School, just down the road from where I was coaching (William Jessup University). So I’ve known him for four years, haven’t been his coach, but have known and watched him and his development. He’s a legit 6-foot-5, with a perfect basketball frame, adds something new to his game every year.”
And Jacobson quickly called a former colleague in Anchorage East head coach Chuck Martin, tapping into three Anchorage East players: Darael Doughty, Victor Meza and Deshawn Rushmeyer.
“Doughty went to Central Arizona and they dropped the basketball program before last season started, so he’s ready to go,” Jacobson said. “He’s a shifty, quick guard, and when he’s feeling it, he can shoot from anywhere.”
Meza is a glue guy, Jacobson said.
“When I called Chuck, he told me about two guys, but he also said that if they didn’t have this guy they would never have won the state championship,” Jacobson said.
“He’s the ultimate do-the-dirty-work, be tough, guard-multiple-positions guy. He does things instinctually.”
Miles Lake, a 6-3 guard out of Sacramento, also figures to be in the rotation.
“He’s super athletic. He had a tip dunk on our first day in practice, and he will come in and run the point for us some,” Jacobson said.
As for playing style? With a more versatile lineup than vertical, the Pirates will play positionless basketball.
“Our team is smaller this year and we are going to play a lot of positionless basketball like the (Golden State) Warriors have with a 6-7 center in Draymond Green,” Jacobson said.
“I’m really not that worried about it. The modern game has changed and we will work as a group to rebound. That’s the biggest challenge with an undersized team, but toughness, effort and determination can go a long way.”
“My goal is to be the best version of ourselves,” he continued. “If you do that right every day, your process is right and the results will follow.”