PORT ANGELES — He only got one shot on the Roughriders varsity boys basketball team, but Port Angeles senior Damen Ringgold nailed it, leading a successful, senior-laden squad in scoring and rebounding while quickly receiving attention and scholarship opportunities from a number of Northwest Athletic Conference schools.
Ringgold decided Tacoma Community College provided the right balance of educational and athletic opportunities, and he signed to play for the school during a ceremony at Port Angeles High School last week.
“The [coaching staff] told me they take their time to look at every player they can find and look for players that are hard-working, talented and show up to class on time,” Ringgold said. “They wanted me because they heard from [Port Angeles] coach Kasey [Ulin] about the program and the culture that he’s still instilled.
“They have a program I’m interested in to become a radiologic technician. I love how the human body works, the mechanics of it. And I like to take photographs, and when I found out I could do both, I fell in love with it.”
Ringgold’s rise with the Riders is not your typical story. Cut from the Port Angeles program as a freshman, Ringgold stuck with it, doubling down on his belief in his abilities while climbing through the C squad and junior varsity teams as a sophomore and junior and eventually earning second-team All-Olympic League honors and an All-Peninsula Boys Basketball Team selection by the Peninsula Daily News as a senior.
Ringgold said a heart-to-heart talk with his mom, Torie Garrett, on the day he was cut from the team as a freshman stuck with him and provided motivation.
“She picked me up, and I was crying,” Ringgold said. She gave me a motivational speech on why I should continue to pursue basketball. She told me that when she used to play, she didn’t have the skills that I had, that when she saw me on the court, she knew I could do it. She was begging for me to keep going because she knew how important it was to me.”
He was profiled in a February feature available at tinyurl.com/PDN-Ringgolds Rise.
Ulin said he sent out game film to college recruiters and provided an honest assessment of Ringgold’s abilities to interested coaches. And he made the point that Ringgold, already a double-double machine, could have had even more impressive individual statistics if he didn’t play on such a deep, talented team.
“His play and who he is helped gain him so much traction [in the recruiting process] throughout this year,” Ulin said.
“His best trait is his coachability. We are all going to have bosses and are going to have to take directions in life. He never once complained about not playing more or not scoring more — and that’s difficult to do, and that’s his personality. He sacrificed his own stats for the benefit of the team. And college coaches don’t want prima donnas, they want hard-working, humble guys who aren’t going to be headaches.”
The interest rose quickly during the season.
“The sports world is very intertwined and connected,” Ulin said. “The article you guys did on Damen helped him out, to highlight a kid who has put the effort in and put the time in to improve and is special. He’s a kid that is easy to cheer on and is easy to be honest about, but it was exciting to see his recruitment take off.
“The simple odds of a junior playing JV to be able to make it and to play at the next level are so high.”
Ringgold, who is of mixed race, also championed the Black Lives Matter protests for racial equality underway in his community and worldwide at his signing. He included a real-life example when explaining why he and family members raised their fists in support of the movement.
“What it means to me, honestly, is black men don’t get the right kind of attention in society,” Ringgold said. “A white man can walk down the sidewalk and pass a white woman, and there’s no reaction. She feels safe. If I walk down the sidewalk, I can see a physical reaction. I can see her move to protect her purse.
“Most people just judge us by our skin color and not by our character, and that’s wrong.”
Ulin said he is already recruiting Ringgold for a return to a future Port Angeles basketball practice.
“He’s such a great story for people to hold on to, and we want him to come back and talk with our players,” Ulin said. “In a time when it’s easy to quit when things don’t go your way, or players seek out transfers, it’s Damen’s continued perseverance, continued work, that stands out. He continued to believe in himself and realize that your moral compass and high character is what is going to carry you through, and the blessing for him is he gets to play at the next level.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected] news.com.