Thunder Mountain High School seniors James Polasky, left, and Samuel Lockhart, right, signed letters of intent on Thursday in the TMHS commons to play college basketball. Polasky will attend St. Olaf in Minnesota and Lockhart will attend Edmonds College in Washington state. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School seniors James Polasky, left, and Samuel Lockhart, right, signed letters of intent on Thursday in the TMHS commons to play college basketball. Polasky will attend St. Olaf in Minnesota and Lockhart will attend Edmonds College in Washington state. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain’s Sam Lockhart and James Polasky sign letters of intent to play college basketball

All-state selection Lockhart to hoop at Edmonds, Polasky at St. Olaf.

Thunder Mountain High School Falcons 5’10” all-state senior guard Sam Lockhart and 6’7” all-conference senior center James Polasky signed national letters of intent Thursday in the TMHS commons to play college basketball for, respectively, Edmonds College in Lynnwood, Washington, and St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

“I think they are going to bring a lot of leadership and good experience after playing four years of varsity high school basketball,” TMHS head coach John Blasco said. “They are going to bring a lot of commitment and dedication. These guys put a lot of hours in the gym for the last four years, and they’ll continue to do that at the next level and provide a work ethic that will push their teammates at the college level.

Lockhart will play for coach Kyle Gray and the Tritons. Edmonds, formally Edmonds Community College, finished with a 22-9 overall record last season, 11-3 in the Northwest Athletic Conference north division (first place), and lost in the NWAC Elite 8 tournament game to end their season.

Lockhart will be joining a potential all-Alaska backcourt as Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé 5’10” third-team all-state guard selection Alwen Carrillo already signed to Edmonds in early April and JDHS 6’4” senior all-conference guard/forward Sean Oliver is awaiting paperwork to make his announcement official.

“We are very excited for all those guys,” Edmonds coach Gray said. “Sam has a great ability to score the ball, but what really drew us to him was how hard he competes. The more we got to know him the more you see a fearless competitor and those types of players do well in our program. We also had some familiarity with him from getting to know Alwen and look forward to building on the chemistry they already have together. We also have a connection to them through Triton alums Brady Carandang (TMHS ’20, Edmonds ’23) and Bryson Echiverri (TMHS ’20, Edmonds ’23), who also are from Juneau and Thunder Mountain, and we loved those two while they were here as well.”

There are 32 teams among four divisions in the NWAC. Seven sophomores will finish their team eligibility for Edmonds this season, and 13 are listed as returning from their freshmen year.

“I really liked the coach,” Lockhart said of his decision. “He reminds me a lot of Blasco. Also, knowing that Alwen signed there, I have always wanted to play with him, I wouldn’t rather play with any other point guard to be honest, so that played a big role and also it is close to home. Family can come watch. I like the overall program.”

Lockhart averaged 16.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and two steals per game this season for the Falcons. He made 42.7 percent of his shots from the 3-point arc, making 97 on the season for an average of 3.1 per game with many journalists renaming the arc the “Lockhart Line.”

“I would like to sharpen my craft of shooting,” Lockhart said. “I think that is one of the main reasons they want me and just get better overall at playmaking, and defensively I definitely have to be better.”

Edmonds College is a public community college offering both two-year and four-year programs and degrees. Student-athletes can only participate in two seasons of sport-specific competition in junior and community colleges and those seasons count in the total allowed for upper-division sports. Edmonds is known for longstanding liberal arts/humanities, computer, construction, culinary arts, horticulture, paralegal and parent education programs.

“I am trying to ride basketball as long as I can,” Lockhart said. “Then will see where the wind takes me from there. I would say architecture is an interest of mine. I should be able to get my gen-eds there and transfer to an architectural school.”

Lockhart said he would definitely miss his teammates and had “a bond with all of them that I had never had before.”

Polasky will play for coach Dan Kosmoski and the Oles. St. Olaf finished with a 9-16 record overall, 8-12 in the NCAA Division III Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). The roster shows five seniors graduating from the team and six players 6’4” and under returning.

“St. Olaf College men’s basketball program is excited to have James Polasky join our St. Olaf family,” St. Olaf head coach Dan Kosmoski said. “When James visited St. Olaf last summer, we knew that he was special and there was an immediate connection between player, school and coach. James brings a uniqueness to our team and system allowing a big player to be able to do multiple things in our offense and the strength to defend teams that have a bigger player. We were cheering on James all the way through the state tournament and to know that he competed at the highest level with a sprained ankle. That alone makes James a special person and team player.”

Polasky averaged 10.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and one blocked shot per game this season despite an injury limiting his mobility. He hit 52% of his field goals and his work inside the key was instrumental in the success of the Falcons.

“Last summer I was able to get out and visit some schools and when I got to St. Olaf I really liked the campus, the court, the facility, everything,” Polasky said. “The biggest factor was I really liked the coach. It felt like I was visiting my future coach and college, not like I was on a college tour. It wasn’t a ‘what if’ kind of thing it just felt like where I was supposed to be. I really connected with him. I loved the school and the location and everything.”

Polasky noted that St. Olaf was losing a lot of size.

“I will help there,” he said. “The biggest thing that excites me is the coach says everything is up to me. I am at a good spot right now. I don’t think I have a ceiling, I think everything is just up to me right now so we will see what I can do.”

St. Olaf is a four-year private liberal arts college grounded in Lutheran tradition. A quarter of the student population identify as Lutheran, but the school is open to those from all world religions and non-faith traditions. The school is known for its Scandinavian studies programs, world-renowned music groups, and study abroad programs.

“Kind of what Sam said I am hoping to ride basketball out as long as I can, but I am also interested in economics,” Polasky said. “St. Olaf also has a really good kinesiology program so that is something I want to look into…I am definitely going to miss this TM team. This is one of the closest teams I have ever been on and ever will be on so I will miss them and the coaches I had here.”

Lockhart and Polasky helped the Falcons to a runner-up finish at the 2024 Alaska School Activities Association March Madness state basketball tournament.

Lockhart earned All-Tournament Team honors along with senior teammate Thomas Baxter and two state tournament Player of the Game selections (Baxter one). Polasky was key inside for the Falcons to combat the larger players the team encountered.

Also notable is the transfer of JDHS 2023 graduate Orion Dybdahl from Centralia College to Edmonds that could, potentially, orchestrate a dominant Alaska-led team that will help open the floodgates for future recruitment in the state. Dybdahl, a 6’7” power forward, averaged 14.5 points, six rebounds and one assist per game for the Blazers last season while hitting 56.4% from the field.

“I’m excited and intrigued by the prospects of a college lineup that features 80% Juneau players,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “Edmonds CC has done well with Alaskans in general and Southeast kids specifically. I imagine that trend will continue moving forward with the matriculation of OJ (Dybdahl), Alwen (Carrillo), Sean (Oliver) and Sam (Lockhart).

Ketchikan 2020 graduate Chris Lee, a ball-handling sharpshooter like Lockhart, finished his 2023-24 sophomore campaign at Edmonds averaging 19.8 points per game, 5.7 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.6 assists per game and was voted Most Valuable Player of the NWAC’s North Region.

Thunder Mountain High School seniors James Polasky, left, and Samuel Lockhart, right, are applauded by teammates after signing letters of intent on Thursday in the TMHS commons to play college basketball. Polasky will attend St. Olaf in Minnesota and Lockhart will attend Edmonds College in Washington state. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School seniors James Polasky, left, and Samuel Lockhart, right, are applauded by teammates after signing letters of intent on Thursday in the TMHS commons to play college basketball. Polasky will attend St. Olaf in Minnesota and Lockhart will attend Edmonds College in Washington state. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School seniors James Polasky signs a basketball for a fan as senior Sam Lockhart and teammates look on before Polasky and Lockhart signed letters of intent on Thursday in the TMHS commons to play college basketball. Polasky will attend St. Olaf in Minnesota and Lockhart will attend Edmonds College in Washington state. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School seniors James Polasky signs a basketball for a fan as senior Sam Lockhart and teammates look on before Polasky and Lockhart signed letters of intent on Thursday in the TMHS commons to play college basketball. Polasky will attend St. Olaf in Minnesota and Lockhart will attend Edmonds College in Washington state. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

James Polasky, left, and Samuel Lockhart, right, pose with their families after signing letters of intent on Thursday in the TMHS commons to play college basketball. Polasky will attend St. Olaf in Minnesota and Lockhart will attend Edmonds College in Washington state. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

James Polasky, left, and Samuel Lockhart, right, pose with their families after signing letters of intent on Thursday in the TMHS commons to play college basketball. Polasky will attend St. Olaf in Minnesota and Lockhart will attend Edmonds College in Washington state. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)

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