Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé senior Orion “OJ” Dybdahl signed a letter of intent on Monday to attend Centralia College in Centralia, Washington, and play basketball for the Trailblazers.
“I love his length and I love his mobility for sure,” Centralia College head coach Joe Chirhart said. “He is not going to come here and not play. He is going to come in and play ample minutes, possibly work his way into the starting lineup. I am really excited.”
Dybdahl averaged roughly 16 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one blocked shot per game this season. He played in all 31 games and led the Crimson Bears to the Region V Championship and a berth in the ASAA State tournament in March where they fell in the consolation championship.
It was in that game against Dimond High School that Centralia coaches got a first hand look at the mobile Dybdahl.
“He was the real deal,” said Chirhart, a 2002 graduate of Dimond and three-year state player. Chirhart was just hired as head coach three weeks ago but was an assistant coach and head of recruiting this past season. He also saw Dybdahl play at the Prep Alaska Shootout in January.
“OJ stood out in the state tournament man,” said Chirhart. “Both the big kids from Dimond had committed to colleges and I was really there to watch those guys, but OJ played great against them. He gave them fits, neither one of them had a very successful time against him. I loved OJ’s mobility as a 6’7 guy. He played the post area but that kid can move man. He can get up and down the court.”
In the state tournament Dybdahl earned two Player of the Game honors and was selected to the All-Tournament Team.
“Coach Chirhart was up there looking at one of their players and said he liked the way I played,” Orion Dybdahl said. “He reached out later, and a few more colleges reached out but Centralia seemed like the right option.”
Dybdahl said he will bring height and length, “but I definitely think I bring hard working spirit. I won’t ever give up and hopefully I can make an impact. They want to play a fast-paced game and Coach Chirhart said they wanted to bring in a lot of high character kids, a lot of leaders, so that is exciting.”
Dybdahl plans to major in engineering as he works to secure another basketball offer after his two seasons with Centralia.
“Hopefully I can transfer to a four-year DII or DIII, further my education while continuing to play,” he said. “I definitely need to get in the weight room a little more and work on my shooting, dribbling and things like that.”
JDHS coach Robert Casperson noted that Dybdahl’s work ethic is what stands out, including a dedication before last season to put on 20 pounds of muscle on his 6-foot-7 frame.
“Centralia is getting the kind of kid that I think every coach would be blessed to work with,” said Casperson. “He completely dedicated himself to everything we asked him to do, he was always working hard, he was willing to set goals and worked to achieve them. They are getting a kid that finishes extremely well around the basket, brings in some leadership and is very excited to be a part of their program.”
Family hoops ties run deep for Orion. His grandfather Johan Dybdahl was inducted into the Gold Medal Hall of Fame in ’96 after many years of play in the tournament and then as one of its most respected coaches. Johan’s brother Jim was inducted into the GMHOF in 2000.
Dybdahl’s father Travis, a 1997 JDHS grad, helped the Crimson Bears to three trips to the state tournament and a state championship in ’97. He played two years of college basketball in the NWAC, helping Grays Harbor win the title, and another year at Southern Oregon before becoming one of the all-time leading scorers in Gold Medal and a 2014 GMHOF member.
“This is a proud moment for us,” Travis Dybdahl said. “To see all his hard work and love for the game come to this is really special.”
Sister Michaela Demmert, a 2014 Thunder Mountain High School grad, played club basketball at Dartmouth and has starred on the Gold Medal floor and mother Sarah graduated from Klawock in 1998 and continued her high school hoops success into the annual Gold Medal tournaments in Juneau.
“He has been playing basketball since he was little, just given who his father is and coming from a basketball family,” Sarah Dybdahl said. “I think it was kind of in his fifth grade year that he took to it and found a love for it and it has been fun to watch him grow ever since. The difficult thing was, OJ, for his age, is a year younger so he will be 17 when graduating. So playing in a grade level instead of an age bracket has always been a challenge he faced and I think he has done it with a lot of integrity and grit.”
Centralia College likes to push the ball up the court and will play fast according to Chirhart.
“I wanted a big man that can get up and down and he does that,” said Chirhart. “And specifically I like what he does on the defensive end, covering posts up high and in the blocks, that is huge.”
Chirhart also noticed times on the floor where Dybdahl picked up his teammates, would never pout when rested, celebrated his teammates successes, and his attention to coaches instructions.
“I want kids with high motors, high energy,” said Chirhart. “But also high IQ and are coachable as well and he checks all of those boxes.”
Another box, often overlooked for basketball effectiveness, is that Dybdahl is left-handed.
“I have five kids that are lefties,” said Chirhart. “I think that is a plus on the court. And OJ is just a great kid. When I signed him I received multiple phone calls down here from folks asking if he was Travis’ kid. He comes from a great family and having a family member that knows what to expect from the NWAC is big time. The game has evolved a bit. My hope and goal is to help him develop a confidence and comfort in his shooting ability. When you are 6’7 you are put with your back to the basket in high school but at the college level there are guards that size. My hope and goal is every kid I have moves on to a four-year. For us he will play a lot of post but I think with his skill set he will be able to pick and pop or play the wing. I don’t question his ability to rebound and put back but I do want to help him develop some ball handling and outside shooting so he is confident and ready to move on to a four-year after us.”
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at firstname.lastname@example.org.