Led by Parham, North Hills boys in search of consistency

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Sunday, December 5, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Atop Buzz Gabos’ wish list for the 2021-22 season is consistency.

A year ago, with covid-19 issues taking a grip on the North Hills boys basketball program, Gabos had to constantly adapt on the fly.

Delays, cancellations and concerns, along with a developing group, led the Indians to a 4-10 season, with a 2-7 mark in Section 1-6A.

But now, with a promising, more experienced roster under him, Gabos — entering his 16th season at North Hills — is looking forward to last year’s struggles being behind the program.

“Hopefully there’s a little more consistency,” he said. “The most difficult part was just the lack of practice time. We had stretches where we were gone 12 days at a time and then trying to come back and play. It was hard for the kids.”

Last season the Indians had their final five regular season games canceled, and went into their Class 6A first round playoff game — a 63-50 loss to Penn-Trafford — having not played or even practiced much in the previous two weeks.

Compounding the issue was the fact that North Hills was a relatively young team, primarily using four juniors and a freshman as starters.

But that freshman was no ordinary ninth-grader.

Royce Parham burst onto the WPIAL scene, scoring 17 points per game in his first high school season to go along with over 9 rebounds per game.

“He’s very skilled for his size. He’s not just a big kid who stands around the basket,” said Gabos of the 6-foot-7 Parham, who has a Division I offer from Robert Morris and much more interest already. “He can do a variety of things.

“He plays a lot of high level AAU out of season, so he’s used to competing against guys who are bigger and stronger. And he’s been doing that for a number of years now.”

Parham will end up being one of the district’s most recruited players in the coming years. But he’s still only a sophomore, and, while he’ll be the focal point of Gabos’ attack, he won’t be alone.

“He’s a really good teammate, as are our other guys,” Gabos said. “They seem to get along really well and don’t seem to care who gets the credit or who is scoring.”

Joining Parham in the starting lineup will likely be seniors Alex Smith (15 points per game last season), Matt Seidl (10 ppg), Devin Burgess (8 ppg) and Will Blass. Logan Johnson, another sophomore, will be a key player off the bench and could work into the starting lineup.

That group, with Parham in the middle, could be one of the biggest teams in the WPIAL. Smith is 6-3, Johnson is 6-1, Seidl is 6-2, Blass is 6-foot and Burgess checks in at 6-4.

“We have pretty good size and are probably a little bit bigger across the board than we’ve been in the past, which is nice,” Gabos said. “You kind of need that in 6A, because you’re going to run into some big teams. The length helps.”

That size, mixed with the team’s budding athleticism, should help North Hills be able to change its style based on opponent and situation.

“We’re pretty balanced,” Gabos said. “With some size, we can play inside-out. But we’re not focused on playing one particular way. We’re just going to play. Yeah, we know we have a guy who can score around the basket and can step away, but we really like our guys on the perimeter. We feel that we’ve got five guys on the perimeter who can shoot it, put it on the floor and are pretty high IQ players.”

Due to a lack of teams in the classification, North Hills will meet rivals Butler, North Allegheny, Pine-Richland and Seneca Valley three times this year in what should be one of the WPIAL’s most competitive sections.

Pine-Richland made the WPIAL semifinals a year ago, North Allegheny has brought back Dave DeGregorio to lead an always solid program, Butler reached the Class 6A semifinals and Seneca Valley was three points away from beating eventual 6A champ Upper St. Clair in the playoffs last season.

“You’ve got 12 really, really good games where I think anyone can win on those nights because it’s so competitive,” Gabos said. “At the same time, it makes it really exciting.

“I’ve said to our guys that going on the road in January, and it’s a packed house on a Friday night, and they’re screaming and hollering at you, and even if you don’t win, I prefer that atmosphere — that, to me, is exciting, that’s fun, that’s why you do it — than if you were just play some random nonsection game and win by 25. You want to be tested.”

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