Royce Parham, North Hills boys out to take care of unfinished business

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Saturday, December 3, 2022 | 11:01 AM


North Hills enters the new high school boys basketball season coming off one of the most successful years in program history.

But the way the season ended, with a heartbreaking first loss in the WPIAL 6A title game and another defeat in the PIAA playoffs, left a sour taste in the mouths of the team’s players and coach.

“It was an amazing run, but if you had said that we were 26-2, I would’ve thought that we had won something,” said coach Buzz Gabos. ”That was the hard part.”

The Indians began the 2021-22 season 24-0 before a stunning loss at the Petersen Events Center to Fox Chapel, a team the Indians had defeated by 30 points earlier in the year. Archbishop Wood ended North Hills’ season with a 30-point victory in the state quarterfinals a few days later.

“It was a great group of guys with four seniors that we’re in the process of replacing,” Gabos added.

North Hills did lose quite a bit. Those four seniors were all starters. So that’s the bad news. The good news for the Indians? Their best player — and arguably the WPIAL’s best player — returns for his junior year.

Royce Parham, a 6-foot-8 forward, averaged nearly 21 points and nine rebounds per game last season, while shooting over 64% from the field.

“His game has expanded quite a bit in the last six to eight months,” said Gabos. “There were things he could do last year that we just didn’t have him do. But if we don’t give him the basketball around the basket, then shame on me.

“There’s nobody else around like him, who can do what he can around the basket. We have to take advantage of him.”

Parham has offers from several Division I programs, including Pitt, Notre Dame, Marquette, Wisconsin, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Penn State and more.

Who complements Parham, however, is the big question that Gabos is trying to figure out.

Logan Johnson, a 6-foot junior, is the only player who played considerable minutes last season. Sophomore point guard Zach Pollaro will factor into the mix and his brother, Jake, is back after season-ending hand surgery last winter.

“Until it gets figured out, we hope Royce is good enough that he can carry us at times on both ends,” said Gabos, who is optimistic about his team’s ability to shoot from beyond the arc and feels that they could be even better this year from deep than they were last season.

“When teams take (Parham) away, we have to find ways to make them pay with other shooters on the floor,” he said.

North Hills has plenty of changes on their side of the court but will also see plenty on the opposition’s bench.

The Indians dropped down from Class 6A to Class 5A this season and join a section with programs like Chartiers Valley, Mars and Moon — which have all won WPIAL titles in recent years — as well as South Fayette and West Allegheny.

Gabos also has set up a demanding nonsection schedule that will feature games against all of North Hill’s old Class 6A section rivals: North Allegheny, Butler, Seneca Valley and Pine-Richland.

“We wanted to keep those games because they’re fun and they’re closer,” Gabos said. “Plus, you have a season in which you win 26 games and bring back a top guy in the area, and there’s probably some teams that don’t want to play you. The schedule is as difficult as it’s ever been.”

Gabos admits that this team will certainly take longer to come together than last year’s, when North Hills took the WPIAL by storm with blowout win after blowout win. Now, however, their coach feels that it may take until January, when section play begins, for the team to find its stride.

If it does? Well, Gabos still sees his group as a contender.

“There’s this unfinished business,” he said. “Let’s try it again. We know it’s not going to be easy. But if we come together and do things the right way, I think we can be there again.

“I don’t expect us to be 26-2, but I think we can be pretty good.”

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