It was the Thursday before the first week of Fall 2020 classes at Centralia College and newly-graduated Coleson Richendollar had come to terms with the fact that his basketball career had ended.
The 2020 Winlock grad had been attending open gyms at Centralia College since last summer and was planning to go again this summer before COVID-19 put a halt to it. After receiving little interest from college programs, he figured his chances of joining a team were over.
So Richendollar put all his thoughts and energy into preparing to start his career as a student-only at Centralia College. Then Trailblazers’ assistant coach Jonathan McMillan reached out and asked if he wanted to be a part of the team.
“It was exciting,” Richendollar said. “Not many kids around here get to play college ball. To be able to be one of those kids is quite an accomplishment.”
Richendollar was part of a group of Cardinals that helped change the culture around Winlock’s athletic programs. Two years before he made varsity as a freshman, the boys basketball and football teams both hadn’t won a game in two years. The Cardinals won nine games his freshman year and upset an opponent at the district playoffs each of the next three seasons.
Richendollar credits coach Nick Bamer in motivating the players with his high-intensity brand of basketball. It didn’t take long for the players to buy in. It also helped that the 2020 seniors, a group of seven, had all been playing together since sixth grade when Randy Hall was their coach.
Richendollar saw the culture change from when he first entered the locker room as a freshman to how it was his senior year.
“A lot of our attitudes toward the gym and practice changed a lot compared to how they used to be,” Richendollar said. “Bamer was probably the most important. He always stayed positive and pushed us to do great things. It seemed like we were always getting better, every single day. He played a major role in that.”
McMillan recognized Richendollar’s importance in helping shape the program.
“He helped make Winlock what they are now,” McMillan said through a text message. “You want kids like that in your program because they are tough and never quit.”
The Cardinals finished second in the Central 2B League, reeling off a 14-game win streak at one point, and finishing 17-7 overall and 8-2 in league play. They beat Toledo for the first time since 2009. Richendollar capped off his prep career with a game-high 25 points in a season-ending loss at districts, just one game short of regionals.
Richendollar, a 6-foot-3 wing, racked up stats in nearly every statistical category, averaging 12 points, 7.5 rebounds, five blocks, four assists and four steals per game. It earned him second-team all-C2BL honors and a spot in the senior all-star game at Lower Columbia College in March, where he scored seven points.
Bamer called Richendollar a great competitor who is long and tough, even playing hurt for the Cardinals all year.
“Well-rounded and an incredible passer,” Bamer said. “Best asset is his floor vision. Has the talent and drive to develop into a high-level player as he grows into his body.”
McMillan said Richendollar has all the physical attributes that a coach wants in a college player, and that he hasn’t reached his full potential yet. It also was a bonus that Richendollar excelled as a students at Winlock and received good grades, McMillan said, as he won’t have to worry about Richendollar keeping his grades up to stay eligible.
“His length and shot-making is what really separates him,” McMillan said. He can shoot with range and has the ability to guard one through three. He knows what it takes to start from the bottom and work hard to become a winner. He always stays the same, which means you can trust him when the game is on the line. I think once he gets into the swing of things and becomes more confident in his game, he will make an excellent slasher.”
Richendollar plans to transfer to Central Washington University after two years at Centralia College, if he doesn’t get any offers to continue his basketball career elsewhere, and pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering to become a civil engineer one day.
“I don’t want to be a guy that sits in an office or stares at a computer screen all day,” Richendollar said. “I like getting out and doing stuff, so I thought civil engineering was a great way to go about it.”