PORT ANGELES — What does a program do after earning its first state basketball tournament trophy in 25 years and graduating seven seniors?
It goes back to what propelled the team to that position in the first place — buy in and commitment.
“This group is excited to carry the torch and also realistic about the growth we need to make,” coach Kasey Ulin said.
“The major thing is these guys have put in a ton of time and effort in the offseason — they played a full summer season and spent the fall getting better. Team unity will be in our collective DNA and this might be the closest-knit team we have which might be our biggest strength.”
Parker Nickerson is the Roughriders’ lone returning starter, with the athletic forward back on the floor after a wrist injury derailed the postseason portion of his 2021-22 season.
“Parker is a big piece of what is returning, but we won’t be a one-man show,” Ulin said. “I really like the development Tyler Hunter has made. He’s grown up, matured and gotten stronger.”
Hunter is a 6-foot-4 senior who was on the varsity briefly last season.
Ulin loves a senior point guard and the Riders have one in Josiah Long.
“This is his team to run and lead,” Ulin said. “We are really excited about Josiah — he’s the ultimate senior point guard, a high character leader. And it’s almost impossible to beat him in any conditioning drill we do. He looks like a machine as well after adding 10 pounds.”
Isaiah Shamp is another tall post inside for the Riders. Shamp saw time late in the season when injuries reduced the Riders’ roster and was up for the challenge with some important baskets and rebounds down the stretch.
Junior Parab Seera should be in the team’s rotation.
“He’s lanky, defends well, understands the game and can play multiple positions,” Ulin said. “You tell him to do something and he will exhaust himself doing just that.”
Dallas Dunning, a 6-5 junior wing, is the most intriguing prospect on the roster.
The younger brother of last season’s Olympic League first-teamer Wyatt Dunning, Dallas is close to figuring things out, Ulin said.
“He’s getting ready to hatch, he’s so close to coming out of his shell and when he does he will be a special player.
Kason Albaugh, a highlight of the Riders football team, also will see time.
“He’s a competitor, a gritty, tough player with a good skill set,” Ulin said.
Port Angeles will have plenty of preparation for what Ulin expects to be a tough Olympic League schedule.
“We have a tough non-league schedule with Renton, who has three Division I-caliber players, Foss and Sammamish. We go to Yakima to play Zillah, who are capable of winning the 1A title and Toppenish who has been really good.
“We just need to keep getting better, learning and growing and put ourselves in a position to be a really good team by the end of January,” Ulin said.
North Kitsap’s talented junior class, headed up by point guard Cade Orness, is again the league favorite.
“Cade is a top-10 prospect in the state,” Ulin said. “In the Olympic League, NK gets the attention, but there will be a lot of competitive games this season.”
“It’s natural to expect us to have a down year after losing [nearly] 100 percent of your scoring and rebound from a really good team,” Ulin said. “As a coach, I am excited to have guys be so hungry and coachable. And there’s no pressure on us, so just enjoy the journey and focus on our growth.”
• Head coach: Kasey Ulin, ninth season, 109-70 overall.
• Last season: 11-1, 20-8, split Olympic League title with North Kitsap, third in district tournament, sixth place at Class 2A state tournament. (2-2). First state tournament trophy in 25 seasons.
• Returners: Parker Nickerson (jr. G/F, 6-2); Josiah Long (sr., G, 5-11); Isaiah Shamp (jr., P, 6-4); Ezra Townsend (jr. F, 6-1); Nathaneal Surina (sr., F, 6-1); Tyler Hunter (sr., P, 6-4); Kason Albaugh (jr., G, 5-9);
• Newcomers: Dallas Dunning (jr., G, 6-0); Gus Halberg (so., G, 5-9); Bryant Hoch (sr., F, 6-0); Reid Schmidt (jr., G, 5-9); Parab Seera (jr. F, 6-0); Nason Martinez (sr., G, 5-11).
• Outlook: The question is if Port Angeles is rebuilding or reloading after the Riders rolled behind a stellar senior core in 2021-22. Expect some growing pains against top-tier nonleague competition, but Ulin’s teams always bring effort and intensity.