When you’ve been coaching as long as Mike Pardon has — and been snake-bit to the extent Roseburg High has experienced in recent years — it’s easy to understand a cautious level of optimism for a new season.
And that’s exactly where Pardon is at as he enters his 18th season leading RHS on the hardwood.
“I like how hard we’re playing, how guys are playing together,” Pardon said. “We have some new kids out there, some new pieces to the puzzle, and we’re cautiously optimistic that things are going in the right direction.”
After back-to-back last-place finishes in the Southwest Conference, Pardon and Roseburg are ready for turn around. Two years ago, the team committed to a group of talented sophomores who learned on the job how hard it is to succeed at the varsity level in Class 6A basketball.
Last year Roseburg made big strides out of conference, but injuries derailed a promising campaign that finished 11-13 overall and 2-10 in the SWC.
Now those sophomores — in particular two-time first team SWC guard Collin Warmouth and post/wing Jonathan Stone, who have both started 47 consecutive games — are veteran seniors eager to do some winning.
“We’ve got more experience, we have guys that have played, been through some wars and hopefully we’ve learned from that and have gotten better,” Pardon said.
While four athletes who started at some point last season graduated, there are four others who started returning: Warmouth, Stone, Kaden Seely and Carson Ellis.
Merhawi Lake, Jett Black and Xavier Avilez also saw court time last year. Black and Avilez swung from the junior varsity in 2017-18.
“A lot of us have been together since middle school, playing travel ball with each other,” Warmouth said.
“Most of us have been around each other our entire lives, since RBC, on traveling teams, going to Medford every single day,” Stone said.
With the addition of transfers Storm Scott and D’Angelo Adams, RHS has the potential to be deeper and more athletic as well.
“It’s amazing how far I’ve come from the freshman team all the way up to the varsity,” Stone said. “We have a lot of athleticism and some size this year, too. It should be fun.”
Scott is a 6-foot-5 post and his presence will allow Stone, who at 6-7 is Roseburg’s tallest player, the ability to create matchup problems while facing the basket.
“I get to have some different experiences out on the court,” Stone said. “We’re running (Scott) in the post right now and me outside. it gets me a lot more looks.”
Pardon wasn’t ready to select a starting five for next Wednesday’s season opener at Eagle Point, but he did indicate it would be some combination of Warmouth, Stone, Scott, Seely, Black, Lake or Ellis.
“Those guys are going to be vying for time,” Pardon said. “Practices are going to be really competitive. We have more depth and that puts pressure on everybody.”
Warmouth was a three-sport athlete until last year, when he dropped baseball to play AAU basketball in the spring and summer.
“He’s better,” Pardon said. “He’s a better player because he spent the time doing that. It’s easy to see and you’ll see it as we get going.”
With his new-found freedom from the outside, Stone has been exhibiting a number of dunks during practice.
Scott brings more than another inside presence to Roseburg, he also brings playoff experience. He was a starter for Mountain View of Bend last year, when the Cougars advanced to the Class 5A final eight. Those three playoff games are more than Roseburg has played in the past seven years.
Roseburg last made the 6A tournament in 2011 and last reached the postseason in 2012, both under Craig Stinnett. Stinnett coached RHS for eight years after Pardon resigned in 2006 as Roseburg’ winningest all-time coach; Pardon returned in the fall of 2014, his record is 237-184.
Pardon isn’t done with using young players on the varsity, either, as sophomore Zach Martin is also on the 10-man roster.