10 PLAYERS TO WATCH
Adam Barber, Sr., Niwot: The Cougars' top returning scorer, he'll be relied on heavily if they wish to improve on last season's eight wins.
Trent Dykema, Jr., Silver Creek: A broken bone in his wrist limited him to just 15 games last season but now that he's back to full strength he'll be looking for a breakout junior year.
Sam Foster, Sr., Broomfield: He led the Eagles in scoring with 12.3 points per game last season and could be in for an even bigger season if he begins to attack more consistently.
Joe Golter, Sr., Holy Family: After leading the Tigers in points, assists and steals in 2015-16, he figures to be a major part of the team's offense again this season.
Hunter Gutierrez, Sr., Skyline: He nearly averaged a double-double last season for the Falcons, who will need him to continue producing if they want to put together back-to-back winning seasons.
Cameron McCurry, Sr., Erie: An imposing figure at 6-foot-9, he led the team in scoring last season and will be the big man in the middle for an improved Tigers team.
Tol Mugunga, Sr., Longmont: First off the bench for the Class 4A state runner-up Trojans last season, the lightning-quick guard will play a much more significant role as a senior.
Michael Ward, Sr., Mead: The Mavericks busted in the Great 8 last season with Ward coming on strong towards the end and he will look to pick up right where he left off in 2016-17.
Luke Wilson, Sr., Boulder: The Panthers will rely on him to do a lot this year and he is up to the task, ready to fill multiple roles on offense and to guard the other team's best player nightly.
Eric Gambon, Sr., Centaurus: Team leader in points, rebounds and assists as a junior a year ago, he'll lead a Warriors group that has been improving steadily over the past four seasons.
The regular season for all classifications ends Feb. 18. The state tournament fields will be determined by the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) system. District tournaments for Classes 1A-3A will be completed by Feb. 25. Championship weekend is March 9-11 at four different locations (5A and 4A at the Denver Coliseum; 3A at Hamilton Gym, University of Denver; 2A at Budweiser Events Center; 1A at Butler-Hancock, University of Northern Colorado).
Coach: Jack Clarke (2nd year).
Last year: 18-7 overall, 11-1 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Peter Chopra (Sr., 6-5, forward); Luke Wilson (Sr., 6-0, guard).
Others to watch: Ben Davis (Sr., 5-10, guard); Davis Kang (Jr., 5-9, guard); Henry Ryan (Sr., 6-1, guard).
Outlook: Reaching the Sweet 16 in 2015 was a major breakthrough and the Panthers will have to get many new players acclimated to the varsity level if they want to approach last year's success. They're hoping that a challenging non-conference will prepare them enough to repeat as Front Range League champions. The Panthers lack size so a commitment to team rebounding is a must if they want to be an upper echelon club in their conference.
Coach: Terrence Dunn (9th year).
Last year: 16-8 overall, 7-5 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Sam Foster (Sr., 6-1, guard); Devin Martinez (Jr., 6-7, forward).
Others to watch: Mike Georgiton (Jr., 6-3, guard/forward).
Outlook: The Eagles are looking to compete for their first league title since 2013, and believe they have the length, defensive work ethic and offensive fire power to win the Front Range League. Veteran girls coach Mike Croell joins the Eagles boys as an assistant this season, adding his remarkable defensive acumen to the staff. Senior guard Sam Foster, who led the team with 12.3 ppg as a junior, looks to become only the second four-year letter-winner in the 57 year history of Broomfield basketball.
Coach: Travis Maron (2nd year).
Last year: 8-15 overall, 2-12 Northern League.
Returning starters: Eric Gambon (Sr., 6-0, guard).
Others to watch: Grayson Walker (Sr., 6-1, guard).
Outlook: The Warriors will continue their growth as a program from year one to year two under head coach Travis Maron. With little varsity experience on the roster, they will have to do so quickly. It will be the team's defense that keeps it in games early on while the younger players continue to gain confidence individually and collectively on the offensive end as the year progresses.
Coach: Tobin Skenandore (1st year).
Last year: 11-12 overall, 4-6 Mile High League.
Returning starters: Bryce Bickel (Sr., 6-3, forward); Nick Timms (Sr., 6-6, center).
Others to watch: John Paquette (Sr., 5-11, guard); Gavyn Pure (Sr., 6-4, forward); Jack Shams (Sr., 5-9, guard); Hunter Watts (Jr., 6-4, forward).
Outlook: With their third new head coach in as many seasons, the Mustangs will again be adjusting to a new coaching staff under Tobin Skenandore. While they do, they will also look for a way to replace the graduation of last year's top four scorers who accounted for a combined 33.6 points per game. Returning starters Bryce Bickel and Nick Timms should get some help from the addition of several multi-sport newcomers.
Coach: Scott Melin (2nd year).
Last year: 2-21 overall, 1-13 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Jadon Lucero (Jr., 6-1, guard); Cameron McCurry (Sr., 6-9, center).
Others to watch: Taran Black (Sr., 6-0, guard); Jeffrey Farineau (Jr., 6-3, forward); Luke Loy (Jr., 6-0. forward).
Outlook: The Tigers are intent on not having to endure another two-win season like they did in 2015-16. They also figure to be one of several teams that finished at or near the bottom of the Tri-Valley standings last year and expect to be better in a deeper conference this season. At 6-foot-9, senior center Cameron McCurry (14.2 ppg last season) will lead the bounce-back bid.
Coach: Patrick Burke (2nd year).
Last year: 9-15 overall, 5-7 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Trent Carson (Sr., 5-8, guard); Sam Grad (Sr., 6-7, forward); Cole Heisner (Sr., 6-7, center).
Others to watch: Mark Dolan (So., 6-0, guard); Avery Monette (Sr., 6-0, guard).
Outlook: This year's Fairview basketball team will be a senior-heavy group. In his second year, head coach Patrick Burke said he expects a lot out of this year's group based on the offseason work the players have put in. With a difficult schedule in place, the Knights will need better guard play this season if they hope to contend in the Front Range League.
Coach: Enoch Miller (2nd year).
Last year: 5-18 overall, 3-11 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Nathan Washington (Sr., 6-3, guard).
Others to watch: Andrew Chohon (Sr., 6-0, forward); Avery Elkins (Sr., 5-9, guard); Kyle Lahr (Sr., 6-3, guard); Nathan Rawson (Sr., 6-3, forward).
Outlook: The Warriors have totaled just seven wins between their past two seasons and the expectation is clearly to be better in 2016-17. With more familiarity in the second season under the current coaching staff, this year's returning group of players feels like it has made significant growth both on and off the court. Last year's offense depended on 2016 graduate Chelton Lebon (18.2 ppg) so expect the scoring to be more spread out.
HOLY FAMILY TIGERS
Coach: Pete Villecco (7th season).
Last year: 17-8 overall, 12-2 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Joe Golter (Sr., 6-1, guard); Kyle Helbig (So., 6-3, guard); Cam Miller (Sr., 6-1, forward); Michael Zeman (Sr., 5-11, guard).
Others to watch: Tanner Baird (So., 6-2, guard); Tanner Price (Sr., 5-11, guard); Aaron Sanders (Jr., 5-11, guard).
Outlook: This year's Tigers figure to be small, quick and tough. The team also returns eight players from last year's 17-8 club that lost to eventual state runner-up Valor Christian in the Sweet 16, including players who filled significant roles as freshmen in Tanner Baird and Kyle Helbig. Leading scorer Joe Golter (11.6 ppg) is also back for his senior season so expect the Tigers to be in the Tri-Valley League title race again.
JEFFERSON ACADEMY JAGUARS
Coach: Mark Sharpley (17th year).
Last year: 7-14 overall, 3-5 Metro League.
Returning starters: Trever Ballard (Sr., 5-10, guard); Justin Barlow (Sr., 6-2, forward); Dylan Bendure (Sr., 6-4, forward); Joe Rodriguez (Sr., 6-0, guard).
Others to watch: Vince Abeyta (Sr., 6-2, guard); Garrett Libby (Sr., 5-10, guard); Tyler Thimsen (Sr., 6-0, guard).
Outlook: This year's team will look a lot like last year's team. That said, the Jaguars all feel as though they have improved enough to better last season's seven-win campaign and shouldn't be counted out. The Jaguars are mostly seniors and return both leading scorers from last year in Joe Rodriguez (11.7 ppg) and Trever Ballard (11.3 ppg).
Coach: TJ Cole (3rd year).
Last year: 7-4 overall.
Returning starters: Josiah Coronado (Sr., 5-11, forward); Travis Kirkland (Sr., 5-8, guard); Christian Varela (Sr., 5-7, guard); Eriq Warren (Sr., 5-7, guard).
Others to watch: Mario Diaz (So., 5-8, guard); Devin Martinez (So., 5-8, forward); Zach Mcfarland (So., 5-9, forward); Devontre Rohret (So., 5-11, center).
Outlook: The 2016-17 season will see the Phoenix enter as one of a handful of teams favored to win the Charter School Silver League. Justice will be led by a senior-laden class with talent and experience. Led in scoring by sophomore Josiah Coronado, the team's greatest weakness is rebounding. If sophomore center Devontre Rohret can mature into a force on the glass and under the rim, the Phoenix will challenge for the title.
Coach: Tracy Neely (1st year).
Last year: 13-11 overall, 6-6 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Garin Leopold (Sr., 6-3, forward).
Others to watch: Campbell Killean (Sr., 6-4, forward); Ross Smith (Jr., 6-1, guard).
Outlook: The Lightning has improved its record in each of the past two seasons and will look to do so yet again this season under new head coach Tracy Neely. Yet, with only one returning starter on the roster that won't be easy. Last year's four leading scorers were seniors so there will be a lot of opportunities for players to take on more responsibility in 2016-17.
Coach: Jeff Kloster (23rd year)
Last year: 25-2 overall, 14-0 Northern League.
Returning starters: None.
Others to watch: Luke Johnson (Jr., 5-10, guard); Tol Mugunga (Sr., 5-10, guard).
Outlook: Graduating a full starting lineup and then some after last season, this year's Longmont Trojans won't closely resemble the group that won more games than any other team in Colorado over the past two seasons. But veteran head coach Jeff Kloster says this year's players are ready to continue the program's tradition. The Trojans will lean heavily on guards Tol Mugunga and Luke Johnson.
LONGMONT CHRISTIAN WARRIORS
Coach: Myron Huey (3rd year).
Last year: 14-10 overall, 2-6 Mile High League.
Returning starters: Blake Azar (Jr., 6-1, forward); Cam Jauregui (Sr., 6-0, guard); Luke Puchino (Sr., 6-3, guard); Jackson Solem (Sr., 6-3, forward).
Others to watch: Clayton Eldred (Sr., 5-9, guard); Ivan Hoogland (Sr., 6-5, center); Zach Shaefer (Sr., 6-0, forward); Dominic Puchino (Fr., 6-6, forward).
Outlook: The Warriors' strengths are experience depth and quickness. This group also feels familiar enough with one another to play a faster-paced style this season with an emphasis on transition scoring. On top of what they expected to get back in 2016-17, the Warriors will get a boost from several unexpected players including Faith Baptist starters Ivan Hoogland and Clayton Eldred, who enrolled at Longmont Christian after their school closed following the 2015-16 school year.
Coach: Brian Barringer (1st year).
Last year: 6-15 overall, 3-7 Mile High League.
Returning starters: Kyle Frohling (Sr., 6-4, forward); Bridger Keane (Sr., 6-1, guard).
Others to watch: Colton Jonjak Plahn (So., 6-3, guard); Evan Reeves (Jr., 6-2, forward).
Outlook: With only two seniors on the roster, the Lions juniors and sophomores will be called upon to contribute a lot this season. What the team lacks in high school experience, it could make up for with size and pure athletic ability. The Lions' focus will be on building skills and fundamentals and playing a smart brand of basketball while they attempt to top last season's six-win mark.
Coach: Darin Reese (7th year).
Last year: 20-6 overall, 12-2 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Derek Edwards (Jr., 6-3, wing); Alex Sandstrom (Sr., 6-7, wing); Michael Ward (Sr., 6-2, guard).
Others to watch: Cameron Cheung (Sr., 5-10, guard); Daniel Cloke (Sr., 6-4, guard); Michael Rice (Sr., 6-3, guard).
Outlook: Last season's groundbreaking run to the Great 8 was a wild ride. The Mavericks lost several quality seniors after last season but feel like they return enough talent and experience to continue the program's upwardly trending levels of success. Senior guard Michael Ward will do a little of everything for the Mavericks, who boast a much bigger lineup than they ever have before and expect to challenge for a Tri-Valley League championship and make another deep playoff run.
Coach: Josh Brenning (1st year).
Last year: 13-11 overall, 7-5 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Tylor Trinh (Jr., 6-1, guard).
Others to watch: Roy Gigsby (Sr., 6-8, forward); Keegan Johnson (Jr., 6-1, guard); Taye Jones (Jr., 6-1, guard); Eric Flaska (So., 6-7, center).
Outlook: The Coyotes are excited for the arrival of new head coach Josh Brenning, which also means a faster-tempo style of play. With the team returning just one starter and introducing a new coaching staff, this season also promises to be a constant work in progress as the team labors to find its identity. The Coyotes will have size up front and expect an influx of athleticism from some football players joining the team but their success will depend on how well they put it all together.
Coach: Kirt McCracken (1st year).
Last year: Did not have a varsity team in 2015-16.
Returning starters: Gabe Larabee (Sr., 6-2, guard/forward); Jaylen Rasdall (Sr., 6-1, guard); Kenny Shankey (Sr., 5-9, guard).
Others to watch: Taylor Hoffman (So., 6-3, forward); Brennan Johnson (Jr., 6-4, forward/center); Rain Larabee (So., 6-3, center).
Outlook: Nederland did not field a varsity team last season because of low numbers and a lack of older kids. Well, the Panthers are back. After playing a junior varsity schedule last season, the Panthers will join the Mile High League and will be coached by Kirt McCracken. Excited to back among the varsity ranks, the Panthers intend to begin rebuilding their program with an emphasis on defense and expand their offense as the season goes on.
Coach: Preston Hardy (2nd year).
Last year: 8-15 overall, 4-10 Northern League.
Returning starters: Adam Barber (Sr., 6-4, forward); Jackson Kolakowski (Sr., 6-0, guard).
Others to watch: Thomas Bounds (So., 6-1, guard); Danoto Rios (Sr., 5-10, guard); Jake Sims (Sr., 5-9, guard).
Outlook: The Cougars are a senior-heavy team this year and second-year head coach Preston Hardy hopes that equates to maturity on the floor. Hardy also believes senior forward Adam Barber is a legitimate candidate for Northern League player of the year and that senior guard Jackson Kolakowski brings experience and leadership to the team. The Cougars ended last season on a five-game losing streak so they'll strive for a good start in 2016-17.
PEAK TO PEAK PUMAS
Coach: Matthew Smith (2nd year).
Last year: 10-13 overall, 1-7 Metropolitan League.
Returning starters: Jake Baker (Jr., 6-3, guard); Max Higdon (So., 6-0, guard); Areeb Rohilla (Sr., 5-10, guard); Tommy Shriver (Sr., 6-4, forward); Brayden Weyer (Sr., 6-11, center).
Others to watch: Giridhar Batra (Jr., 6-1, guard); Max Smith (Sr., 6-0, forward).
Outlook: Last season, the Pumas felt poised for a breakout season and while they did win more games than the previous year, that breakout never materialized. In 2016-17, the team is working to achieve consistency, get up and down the floor and become a better defensive team. A relatively young team this season, identifying and developing leadership will be one of the team's greatest challenges.
PROSPECT RIDGE MINERS
Coach: Ray Van Heukelem (1st year).
Last year: Did not have a varsity team in 2015-16.
Returning starters: Reilly Lavelle (Jr., 6-3, forward); Tyler Wall (Jr., 6-1, forward).
Others to watch: Austin Leopold (So., 6-3, center); Micah Smith (So., 5-9, guard).
Outlook: This is Prospect Ridge's first year with a varsity program and the Miners' first coach is Ray Van Heukelem, who served as an assistant coach at Denver Christian during six state title runs under legendary coach Dick Katte. He also won 2A state championship as head coach in 2013. It's likely that the Miners will struggle early on in the Mile High League but they hope to become a tough opponent by midseason.
SHINING MOUNTAIN LIONS
Coach: Tim Crouthers (1st year).
Last year: 23-3 overall, 8-0 5280 League.
Returning starters: Gopal Zubaedi, (Sr., 6-1, guard).
Others to watch: Alec Evans (Sr., 6-4, forward); Nathan Fairmont (Jr., 6-3, forward); Leo Mason (Jr., 6-2, guard).
Outlook: The Lions finished last season as the Class 1A state runners-up and graduated a number of key players, including four starters from that talented roster. With only two upperclassmen on this year's roster, the Lions will be young but feel as though they have a solid skill base. There will be a lot of new players in new roles this season and first-year head coach Tim Crouthers said the team is excited to take on the challenge of rebuilding and upholding the tradition of excellence at Shining Mountain.
SILVER CREEK RAPTORS
Coach: Bob Banning (17th year).
Last year: 14-10 overall, 8-6 Northern League.
Returning starters: Trent Dykema (Jr., 6-4, guard), Khari Harrison (Sr., 6-2, guard/forward); Sam Schlegel (Sr., 6-6, center).
Others to watch: Hunter Becvar (Sr., 6-1, guard); Carter Blink (Sr., 6-0, guard); Erik Grossaint (So., 6-6, center); Tristan Tanner (Sr., 6-1, guard/forward); Christian Warner (Jr., 6-1, guard).
Outlook: The Raptors held their own in the Northern League last season. Looking to build on that success, they are excited about the additions of veteran coach Bob Olds and former Niwot standout Wayland Harris to the coaching staff. This year's Raptors expect to be a full-court team and will feature their athleticism whenever possible. After battling injuries last season, junior Trent Dykema will be looking for a breakout season.
Coach: Tyler Cerveny (2nd year).
Last year: 12-11 overall, 8-6 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Brayden Blick (Jr., 5-10, guard); Hunter Gutierrez (Sr., 6-5, forward); Nate Higgins (Sr., 5-10, guard).
Others to watch: Austin Robison (Fr., 6-5, forward), Demetrio Martinez (Sr., 5-10, guard), Connor Smith (Jr., 6-5, forward)
Outlook: Last season, head coach Tyler Cerveny's first at Skyline, was the Falcons' first winning campaign in years. Now that they've broken the sub-.500 streak, the Falcons are hungry for more and the goal is to qualify for the state tournament, according to Cerveny. With experienced guards and good team size, the Falcons will enter this season optimistic about what they can accomplish with a chance to string together back-to-back winning seasons.
TWIN PEAKS TIMBERWOLVES
Coach: Cameron Wright (1st year).
Last year: Did not have a varsity program in 2015-16.
Returning starters: Israel Sosa (Jr., 6-0, guard); Joseph Wanninger (Sr., 6-3, forward); Nathan Wanninger (Sr., 6-2, forward); Jacob Widhalm (Jr., 5-10, guard).
Others to watch: Jake Dawson (Jr., 6-2, forward); Matt Phillips (Jr., 6-0, guard).
Outlook: The folks at Twin Peaks Charter are excited about their first season with a varsity boys basketball team. After a strong showing at the junior varsity level last year, the Timberwolves hope to hit the ground running and build on that success as varsity players in the Mile High League. The team will get an added boost from transfer Jake Dawson once he is eligible to compete after Jan. 1.
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