Much has changed since Micah Pollard first joined Foss High School’s varsity basketball team as a freshman in 2015.
The Falcons were a Class 3A program back then, played in the since-disbanded 3A Narrows League, and ended the 2015-16 season with a heartbreaking loss in a winner-to-state game against Kennedy Catholic.
When Pollard was a sophomore, Foss’ shrinking enrollment numbers caused the school to reclassify to 2A. The Falcons embraced the change, didn’t lose an in-classification game in 2016-17 on their way to 2A SPSL Mountain, 2A West Central District and 2A state titles, and became the first Tacoma metro school to win a state title since 2002.
Pollard played behind explosive playmaker Roberto Gittens — who is averaging 15 points per game at College of Southern Idaho — that year. And, he patiently waited alongside reigning 2A SPSL Mountain MVP Demetrius Crosby last year as a junior, helping the Falcons reach the 2A state semifinals before finishing fifth.
Then, in January, longtime Foss coach Mike Cocke’ replaced Dave Alwert at Wilson, some Falcons players transferred away at the end of the school year, others graduated, and Pollard was left as the only returning varsity starter.
Through all of the changes though, Pollard, who is averaging 27.4 points per game this season as a 6-foot senior shooting guard, has stayed consistent. He says the changes have made him better.
“It’s life,” Pollard said after practice earlier this week. “You go through ups and downs, and a lot of changes you don’t expect to happen. When you’re in a situation, you have to fight through and have some grit. I learned that here.”
Pollard, who is arguably the best high school player in Tacoma, has become the clear leader for this year’s Falcons team with Gittens and Crosby — both former TNT All-Area picks, and Gittens a former All-Area player of the year — gone, and Cocke’ coaching across town.
“He’s worked hard, and he’s waited for his opportunity, and now it’s his team, and his opportunity,” Cocke’ said. “I think all of the hard work he put in the last three years with us, obviously he’s off to a good start with Josh (Barsh). It’s a good thing. He’s a good person and a good teammate.”
Pollard said he’s consistently working on being vocal and encouraging teammates with less varsity experience, while aiming to take Foss (6-1) back to Yakima in March.
“Most of the people last year, they were on our JV team, and now they’re playing starting varsity,” Pollard said. “They’re working hard, and we’re getting better each and every day. ...
“If we keep listening and buying in, and working on the things we need to work on, we’re going to get there. We just need to take it one day at a time.”
First-year Foss coach Josh Barsh, who was a standout at Puyallup, and played college basketball at Tacoma Community College and Montana State, said Pollard is a do-it-all player for the Falcons.
“He’s definitely a special athlete, but he’s a great kid,” Barsh said. “I feel blessed to have him on the team, especially for my first year. It’s been a big help to have him.
“I’ve challenged him to be more vocal, and talk to his players and lead that way, which he’s working on. But, he leads by example more than anything. You couldn’t ask for a better kid in that sense.”
And, while Pollard often plays a mentoring role in practice, he still produces in a big way on game nights, setting the tone on both offense and defense. In four of Foss’ first seven games, Pollard has scored more than 30 points, including a career-high 41 in a win over Steilacoom on Tuesday.
Cocke’ said Pollard has played with consistency, fire and energy throughout his high school career, and was one of the reasons the Falcons won a state title in 2017. Pollard added 10 points and four assists off the bench in the championship win over Selah.
Pollard has interest from several colleges, including Division II schools Alaska-Fairbanks, Central Washington, Point Loma and Seattle Pacific.
“There’s no highs and lows,” Cocke’ said. “He continues to go at whoever he’s guarding, whoever he’s playing against. He’s just relentless on both ends of the floor. He’s consistent with mindset. Everything he does, he gives it everything he’s got.”
Barsh got to see that over the summer, when Pollard played AAU basketball with Washington Supreme, where Barsh is a lead assistant. Barsh said when Pollard got opportunities, he made plays. Time playing on the circuit also gave Pollard the chance to bond with his new high school coach.
“It worked out perfectly because I played on the AAU team, and he happened to be one of the coaches who traveled,” Pollard said. “I got to know him pretty well. I’m pretty close, chill with him. I understand him as a human being. he’s a good person. We mesh well together.”
Pollard said he was happy for Cocke’ when the two sat down and talked about Cocke’ taking the Wilson job, and continues to root for his former coach. But, Pollard wanted to start and finish his career at one school, and to stay with his friends and teachers at Foss.
Just ask him what playing for the Falcons, and attending Foss as a student, has meant to him the past four years.
“These past four years? Wow. There’s just so many memories,” Pollard said. “You have to work hard here in the classroom. You have to work hard on the court if you want to get anywhere. People around here, I like that about them. They don’t like half-doing things. If you’re going to do something, do it with all of your effort. It taught me to be mentally tough.”