Thorpe helps new-look Cardinals get off to 7-0 start
Thorpe has put up 94 total points this season.
ELLENDALE, N.D. — There are currently only three players averaging double-digit points on the Ellendale Cardinals, and one of those players is senior guard Riley Thorpe. Through seven games, Thorpe has averaged 13.4 points per game, 6.0 rebounds per game, and 3.4 assists per game.
“He’s a basketball junkie,” Cardinals head coach Brian Vance said. “Last year, he was the second-leading scorer for us, this year he’s the second-leading scorer for us. I’m sure he thought he was going to be the leading scorer. He’s gonna put up his points and people have to know where he’s at.”
During this season, Thorpe is shooting 51% from the field, good for fifth on the team.
“I’m pretty confident when I shoot,” Thorpe said. “If I miss, I don’t really care. I’ll just keep shooting because shooters shoot. If I see one fall, I’ll just keep shooting.”
Thorpe has also helped his team to a 7-0 record, the No. 8 ranking in the latest NDAPSSA poll and a Stutsman County Boys Basketball Tournament title. During the Stutsman County tournament, Thorpe averaged 15.6 points per game, including 18 points in the championship game.
Heading into this season, Thorpe said the biggest goal on his mind was and continues to be trying to get back to the state tournament. It would be Ellendale’s first trip to the state tournament since 2019.
“Definitely make it to state again, that region championship wasn’t how we wanted it to go,” Thorpe said. “So, we’re working hard, playing hard defense, pushing the ball up the court. Just working hard so we can get back to the region (championship) and go back to state.”
Thorpe is one of five seniors on the roster alongside Cole Sayler, Levi Reis, Damon Duran and Theo Thurber. Out of those players, Thorpe is the leading scorer on the team, only trailing junior Anton Geller for points per game. Vance said he looks to Thorpe to help organize his team and to be a leader on and off the floor.
“Leadership-wise he’s a great leader for our young guys,” Vance said. “He’s always in the gym early, stays late sometimes, not enough I suppose. Everything he does, he gets guys in the weight room all summer long. If I gotta get a hold of the guys, I get a hold of Riley and ... he’s getting a hold of everybody else.”
Thorpe said the best part of his game is his shooting. He said he needs to work on his defense. He said the most underrated part of his game is his court vision.
“I’m a pretty good passer and I like setting up people so that’s what I’m pretty good at,” he said.
This season, Thorpe and his teammates have outscored their opponents 466-291, and they’ve only given up more than 50 points twice this season.
“We work on that every day, we do defensive drills every day and that’s what our coach really drives for, good defense,” Thorpe said. “That’s what we like to do.”
Vance said he has seen Thorpe get physically stronger over his four years in the program and grow into his body more. Outside of his physical growth over the last four years, Thorpe said his brother, Hunter, who is a sophomore on the University of Jamestown's junior varsity basketball team, has helped him develop on the floor.
“So, working with him helps me get my shots up, get quicker and knowing the game more,” Thorpe said.
Thorpe and his teammates have adjusted this season to the graduation of 6-foot-8 Scott Wagner from last year’s team.
“With Scott, we dribbled the ball up the floor really slowly, gave it to him, and let him go to work,” Thorpe said. “But now, since he’s gone, we’re really short and we’re really fast. So, we like to push the ball, get up the court and we have more speed on other teams so that’s what we like to use.”
Thopre and the Cardinals are back in action at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, when they play Griggs-Midkota. Thorpe kept it simple when talking about what his team needs to do to continue their hot start to the season.
“Just work hard in practice, be really focused,” Thorpe said. “In our games, stay focused, work hard and play together as a team.”