10 PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tanner Baird, Jr., Holy Family: Pairing with junior teammate Kyle Helbig to form a formidable one-two punch, the lone underclassman on last year's BoCoPreps.com All-Region First Team returns as the Tigers' leading scorer.
Brayden Blick, Sr., Skyline: After averaging 13.0 points a game and shooting 36 percent from long range while leading the Falcons back to the postseason last season, he returns with an even larger role to play for a team that expects another playoff berth in 2017-18.
Trent Dykema, Sr., Silver Creek: Believe it or not, the Raptors' all-around star player has set even higher expectations for his senior season following a junior year throughout which he averaged 20.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.7 assists while leading Silver Creek to the Sweet 16.
Luke Johnson, Sr., Longmont: Averaging 17.5 points per game as a junior, the Trojans' crafty left-handed point guard and on-court leader has an opportunity to captain an athletic group that graduated just one senior at the end of last school year.
Devin Martinez, Sr., Broomfield: He only appeared in 10 games in 2016-17 before an injury ended his season prematurely, but the springy 6-foot-7 forward has the athleticism to put on a show and intends to spend this winter making up for lost time.
Dominic Puchino, Sr., Longmont Christian: This 6-foot-7 wing will be called upon to help the Warriors make up for graduating a special group of seniors from last year's club, and the 14.5 points and 8.2 rebounds he averaged as a freshman make coach Myron Huey think Puchino is the right man for the job.
Gavyn Pure, Sr., Dawson: The leading scorer on a Mustangs club that put together the program's best-ever season in 2016-17, the multi-sport star averaged 19.0 points as a junior and doesn't plan to take his foot off the gas pedal in his final basketball campaign.
Caden Sehr, Sr., Legacy: A dynamic all-around point guard who had a breakout season last winter, it will be up to him to help get the most out of a talented group of Lightning players this winter while still finding time to approach the 15.7-point scoring clip he managed as a junior.
Tylor Trinh, Sr., Monarch: Headed off to play at Colorado School of Mines next season, he led the Coyotes with 16.5 points a game last season while shooting 37 percent from behind the 3-point line and figures to play an even larger role in handling the ball as a senior.
Jax Wilke, Jr., Mead: The Mavericks have graduated a ton of talent over the past two seasons that ended in the Great 8, and they'll turn to this skilled 6-foot-7 forward to help pick up the slack and keep the program on its torrid upward trajectory.
The regular season for all classifications will be completed by Feb. 17. In Class 1A, the eight regional winners will advance to the state tournament where they will be seeded based on the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) standings. In Class 2A, the eight regional winners will be reseeded and play a state tournament including a consolation bracket. In Class 3A, there will be seven district tournaments, each qualifying two teams to the state tournament bracket, with the remaining seeds determined by the RPI standings. In Classes 4A and 5A, league champions will earn automatic berths into the state tournament and the remaining seeds will be determined based on the final RPI standings. Championship weekend is March 8-10 at four different locations (5A and 4A at 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 (3rd year).
Last year: 15-10 overall, 9-3 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Davis Kang (Sr., 5-8, guard).
Others to watch: Miller Davison (Jr., 6-7, center); Caleb Wehmuller (So., 6-0, guard).
Outlook: Even after graduating an outstanding class of seniors that won the FRL as juniors and finished runners-up last winter, internal expectations of another solid year remain high. Point guard Davis Kang is the only returner with significant varsity experience and he will be relied upon heavily throughout the campaign to lead a number of first-time varsity seniors and a promising group of underclassmen.
Coach: Terrence Dunn (10th year).
Last year: 11-14 overall, 5-7 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Steven Croell (Jr., 6-3, guard); Tanner Garner (Sr., 5-11, guard); Michael Georgiton (Sr., 6-3, guard); Devin Martinez (Sr., 6-7, forward).
Others to watch: Justin Berry (Sr., 6-4, forward); Kip Mielke (Sr., 6-1, guard).
Outlook: Coming off a strong summer and bringing back a trio of double-digit scorers in Devin Martinez, Steven Croell and Michael Georgiton, the Eagles' goals include a conference title and at least one playoff win. Returning from an injury that caused an early end to his 2016-17 season, Colorado College commit Devin Martinez will be the linchpin for the Eagles' success at the head of a deep veteran group.
Coach: Travis Maron (3rd year).
Last year: 4-19 overall, 1-13 Northern League.
Returning starters: Ian McGuire (Sr., 6-1, guard).
Others to watch: Owen Koonce (So., 6-3, forward); Nate Totel (Jr., 6-3, forward); Nick Vaver (Jr., 6-1, guard).
Outlook: Graduating Eric Gambon, last winter's clear statistical leader, opens the door for players like senior Ian McGuire (9.6 ppg last season) and junior Nick Vaver to step up and replace that production as the Warriors continue to grow their program. Coach Travis Maron said he is excited to see the development from the Warriors' work this summer show itself on the court this winter.
Coach: Tobin Skenandore (2nd year).
Last year: 19-4 overall, 11-1 Mile High League.
Returning starters: Jordy Grant-Krenz (Sr., 5-9, guard); Gavyn Pure (Sr., 6-3, forward); Jack Shams (Sr., 5-9, guard).
Others to watch: Chase Fulkerson (Sr., 6-0, guard); Hunter Watts (Sr., 6-3, forward).
Outlook: Last season marked the highest win total in the Dawson boys basketball program's history. In the team's second season under head coach Tobin Skenandore, the Mustangs plan to continue building on that success with a senior-laden roster and the addition of a number of multi-sport athletes. Getting leading scorer Gavyn Pure (19.0 ppg last season) back for his senior season certainly won't hurt either.
Coach: Scott Melin (3rd year).
Last year: 11-13 overall, 7-7 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Jeffrey Farineau (Sr., 6-3, forward); Luke Loy (Sr., 6-0, forward); Jadon Lucero (Sr., 6-1, guard).
Others to watch: Tyler Larson (Sr., 6-0, guard); Ethyn Tyson (Jr., 5-10, guard).
Outlook: Back for another run in the tough Tri-Valley League, coach Scott Melin said his Tigers expect to remain among the top half of teams in the conference and possibly improve on last year's fourth-place finish. Likely to feature a one-two punch of forward Jeffrey Farineau and guard Jadon Lucero, the Tigers are optimistic about this winter after reaching the Final 4 at the Air Force team camp tournament this offseason.
Coach: Patrick Burke (3rd year).
Last year: 11-13 overall, 7-5 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Mark Dolan (Jr., 6-1, guard).
Others to watch: Henry Blackburn (So., 6-0, guard); Ashton Nichols (Jr., 6-2, guard); Jalen Page (So., 6-4, forward).
Outlook: The Fairview Knights will put a brand new group on the floor this season, with only one returning starter and a young roster set to open a competitive non-conference schedule on Dec. 1. It will be interesting to see how the up-and-coming Knights handle the faster speed and more physical nature of varsity basketball and how quickly they can adjust before they begin Front Range League play on Jan. 5.
Coach: Enoch Miller (3rd year).
Last year: 11-13 overall, 6-8 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Nathan Rawson (Sr., 6-3, forward).
Others to watch: Aidan Dreitz (Jr., 5-10, guard); Jacob Green (So., 5-10, guard); Tyler Lords (Jr., 5-10, guard).
Outlook: Last season ended with the Warriors making their first playoff appearance since the 2013-14 season, and coach Enoch Miller believes his team is poised to continue that upward trend. "The focus this year is to improve our defensive focus and intensity," Miller said. "We feel that we have the speed, athleticism and basketball IQ to be a much-improved team in all areas, especially defensively." If nothing else, expect the Warriors to be a feisty club all season long.
HOLY FAMILY TIGERS
Coach: Pete Villecco (8th year).
Last year: 20-5 overall, 14-0 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Tanner Baird (Jr., 6-2, guard); Kyle Helbig (Jr., 6-4, guard).
Others to watch: Adam Jolly (Jr., 6-4, forward); Dominic Nellis (So., 5-7, guard).
Outlook: Head coach Pete Villecco said he honestly isn't sure yet how good the Tigers will be this winter, which is an interesting take on a team that hasn't won fewer than 16 games in any of the past six seasons. One certainty is that the Tigers will lean heavily on juniors Tanner Baird and Kyle Helbig, who were the team's top two scorers, and that it will be difficult to replace the leadership and toughness provided by last year's seniors. Their brutal non-conference schedule will answer plenty of the Tigers' questions, as will the challenge of repeating as Tri-Valley League champions.
JEFFERSON ACADEMY JAGUARS
Coach: Mark Sharpley (18th year).
Last year: 13-10 overall, 6-3 Metro League.
Returning starters: None.
Others to watch: Riley Welsch (Jr., 6-1, guard).
Outlook: The Jaguars' lone returner with any varsity experience is junior Riley Welsch, a four-sport athlete who will likely take on a much larger role than he did as a sophomore. Head coach Mark Sharley, who boasts a 397-117 record in over 20 years of coaching, said the Jaguars will have nine or 10 players that should at least start the season getting close to equal playing time. Taking a collective-effort approach, the Jaguars will be young but not small and believe they could surprise some teams.
Coach: TJ Cole (4th year).
Last year: 4-15 overall, 4-6 Colorado Charter League Silver.
Returning starters: Lexi Barnes (Jr., 5-9, guard); Mario Diaz (Jr., 5-9, guard); Angeline Gonzalez (Jr., 5-8, forward); Devontre Rohret (So., 6-3, forward).
Others to watch: Taishon Silva (So., 5-6, guard).
Outlook: The Phoenix opens the 2017-18 season full of excitement and enthusiasm with an experienced roster that includes eight returning lettermen. This year's team boasts an athletic frontcourt led by 6-foot-3 sophomore Devontre Rohret and a backcourt that features sophomore point guard Taishon Silva, who head coach TJ Cole believes has all-league potential.
Coach: Connor Clay (1st year).
Last year: 10-13 overall, 2-10 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Jack Olson (Jr., 6-8, forward); Caden Sehr (Sr., 6-0, guard); Zach Wagner (Sr., 6-6, guard).
Others to watch: Tyler Boeckenstedt (Jr., 6-0, guard); Austin Mullins (Sr., 6-2, post); Jackson Stapleton (Jr., 6-3, guard).
Outlook: Led by versatile point guard Caden Sehr, three of five Lightning starters are back from last season's lineup and are looking to build on what they started in 2016-17. Hovering around .500 for a few years and on its third coach in as many seasons, the Lightning is eager to begin competing with the top teams in the Front Range League and will attempt to do so with a number of new faces being added to the mix around the team's three returning players.
Coach: Jeff Kloster (24th year).
Last year: 13-12 overall, 7-7 Northern League.
Returning starters: Oakley Dehning (Jr., 5-11, wing); Caden Dion (Sr., 6-0, wing); Luke Johnson (Sr., 5-11, guard); Calvin Seamons (Jr., 6-4, wing).
Others to watch: Dallas Dye (So., 6-3, post); Jaydon Elkins (Jr., 6-0, wing); Beck Page (Jr., 6-2, wing); Brady Renck (Jr., 5-11, guard).
Outlook: Still waiting on several key players who are also currently a part of the Longmont football team's deep playoff run, the Trojans will be led by a pair of seniors in point guard Luke Johnson (17.5 ppg last season) and defensive specialist Caden Dion. With a group of returning juniors that saw plenty of court time in 2016-17, the Trojans expect to be an experienced unit that relies on its athleticism at the defensive end once it gets all of its players out at practice.
LONGMONT CHRISTIAN WARRIORS
Coach: Myron Huey (4th year).
Last year: 22-5 overall, 9-2 Mile High League.
Returning starters: Dominic Puchino (So., 6-7, wing).
Others to watch: Blake Azar (Sr., 6-1, post); Timmy Eldred (Jr., 6-0, wing); Ryan Shellenberger (So., 5-10, guard); Mike Voigt (Sr., 6-5, wing).
Outlook: Last season was an incredible run for the Warriors, who made it all the way to the state tournament but graduated seven seniors at the end of the school year. While they lost an abundance of talent, the Warriors do return sophomore Dominic Puchino, who averaged 14.5 points per game as a freshman, and have ramped up their offseason workout program under assistant head coach Alex Huey in hopes of retooling in 2017-18.
Coach: Jahmiel McLawrence (1st year).
Last year: 8-12 overall, 4-8 Mile High League.
Returning starters: Tristan Chavez (Jr., 5-11, guard); Colton Jonjak-Plahn (Jr., 6-3, forward); Joe McCain (Sr., 5-11, guard); Evan Reeves (Sr., 6-0, forward).
Others to watch: Aidan Christiansen (Fr., 5-5, guard); Logan Farner (Jr., 6-1, guard).
Outlook: With first-year head coach Jahmiel McLawrence setting conditioning and fundamentals as this season's emphasis, the Lions think they have a solid enough group returning in order to improve on last season. Viewing their cohesiveness, quickness and athleticism as their bedrock attributes, the Lions also plan to play a faster and more aggressive brand of basketball despite their relative lack of size and length.
Coach: Darin Reese (8th year).
Last year: 21-5 overall, 12-2 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: None.
Others to watch: Derek Edwards (Sr., 6-2, forward); Jax Wilke (Jr., 6-7, forward).
Outlook: After reaching the Great 8 in back-to-back seasons, the Mavericks don't return a single starter this winter and will be young with little varsity experience. They will also be challenged by their difficult non-conference schedule. The Mavericks hope that early-season gauntlet will prepare them for Tri-Valley League competition while they develop chemistry and balance around big man Jax Wilke and senior Derek Edwards.
Coach: Stewart Brewer (1st year).
Last year: 12-12 overall, 8-4 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Keegan Johnson (Sr., 6-1, guard); Tylor Trinh (Sr., 6-1, guard).
Others to watch: Evan Alexander (Jr., 5-11, guard); Taye Jones (Sr., 6-3, guard); Jack Ramsey (Jr., 6-6, forward).
Outlook: Adding a new coach staff to a solid mix of returning players that is headlined by Colorado School of Mines-bound point guard Tylor Trinh, the Coyotes are another club in a group of six Front Range League teams that finished around the .500 win-percentage mark last season. Like those other teams, the Coyotes will be looking to break through this year and the coaching staff thinks that will come as a result of a strong offseason and a new up-tempo style. They're also expecting a breakout season from senior Taye Jones.
Coach: Kirt McCracken (2nd year).
Last year: 1-17 overall, 0-12 Mile High League.
Returning starters: Taylor Hoffman (Jr., 6-2, forward); Toby Kane (Jr., 6-2, guard); Rain Larrabee (Jr., 6-4, forward); Jarod Rasdall (Sr., 5-8, guard); Damon Vigil (Jr., 6-1, guard).
Others to watch: Dusty Morgan (Sr., 5-6, guard); Cooper Neilson (So., 6-5, center).
Outlook: Last season was the Panthers' first back in the varsity division after taking a one-year hiatus in 2015-16 because of low numbers. It was a rebuilding year that saw the team pick up just one win and the Panthers are ready to pick up where they left off with a solid group of returning starters back in the fold.
Coach: Eric Hejl (1st year).
Last year: 10-14 overall, 6-8 Northern League.
Returning starters: Thomas Bounds (Jr., 6-1, guard); Cameron Carlson (Sr., 6-6, forward).
Others to watch: Dominik Luthens (Jr., 6-5, forward); Max Towlen (Sr., 6-3, forward).
Outlook: Having reached the playoffs with a senior-heavy squad last season, the Cougars are looking to retool with two returning starters and new head coach this winter. Understandably given the height on the roster, the Cougars' plan is to focus on utilizing their size up front and perimeter length at the defensive end, and take a movement-centric offensive approach to battle through the early-season growing pains as they build chemistry heading into conference play.
PEAK TO PEAK PUMAS
Coach: Matthew Smith (3rd year).
Last year: 10-12 overall, 3-6 Metro League.
Returning starters: Jack Baker (Sr., 6-2, forward); Giridhar Batra (Sr., 6-0, guard); Niko DeNiro (Sr., 6-2, guard); Max Higdon (Jr., 6-0, guard).
Others to watch: Jonah Eaves (Jr., 6-4, forward); Jack Wilson (So., 6-1, forward).
Outlook: Head coach Matthew Smith thinks this year's Peak to Peak squad has big-time breakout potential because of its strong upperclassmen and several talented new players who will garner more playing time this season. But in order to reach that potential, the Pumas are focused on strengthening their defense, achieving more overall consistency and not beating themselves. But if all goes well, Smith thinks the Pumas could put together one of their better seasons since they won the Metro League in 2010.
PROSPECT RIDGE MINERS
Coach: Ray Van Heukelem (2nd year).
Last year: 3-17 overall, 0-9 Metro League.
Returning starters: Reilly Lavelle (Sr., 6-4, forward); Austin Leopold (Jr., 6-3, center); James Luehr (So., 5-10, forward); Micah Smith (Jr., 5-10, guard).
Others to watch: Truman Chambers (Fr., 5-11, guard); Caleb Craig (Sr., 5-11, guard).
Outlook: Receiving an infusion of young talent and some seasoned transfers including senior Caleb Craig from Florida, this season's Miners figure to be a much-improved squad and expect to finally compete in a 3A Metro League that sent seven of its 10 teams to state last year. The Miners also think they will shoot the ball at a higher percentage, especially once 3-point shooters Joe and Ben Sager become varsity eligible for the second half of the season.
SHINING MOUNTAIN LIONS
Coach: Tim Crouthers (2nd year).
Last year: 13-7 overall, 7-2 5280 League.
Returning starters: Nathan Fairmont (Sr., 6-1, forward); Reid Hill (Jr., 6-0, guard); Leo Mason (Sr., 6-1, guard); Perrin Thompson (Jr., 6-1, forward).
Others to watch: Dylan Farrell (So., 5-10, guard); Max Robson (Sr., 5-10, guard).
Outlook: The Lions return four of five starters from last year's club, which should give them plenty of experience behind two talented seniors in Leo Mason (15.7 ppg last season) and Nathan Fairmont (15.1 ppg). Also set to benefit from a pair of transfers and the largest freshman class in recent years, the Lions plan to capitalize on their many advantages this winter.
SILVER CREEK RAPTORS
Coach: Bob Banning (18th year).
Last year: 21-4 overall, 11-3 Northern League.
Returning starters: Trent Dykema (Sr., 6-4, guard); Christian Warner (Sr., 6-3, guard).
Others to watch: Charlie Belcher (Jr., 5-10, guard); Nick Eaton (Jr., 6-1, guard); Erik Grossant (Sr., 6-7, center); Trevor Ritters (Sr., 6-3, forward).
Outlook: The Raptors reached the Sweet 16 last season and had a strong summer, winning the platinum bracket at the Northern Colorado team camp and finishing runners-up to Eaglecrest at the University of Denver camp. Aiming to return to the Sweet 16 with top player Trent Dykema back for his senior season, the Raptors expect to be a high-pressure defensive team that runs the floor and executes fundamentals with the goal of building on the past few seasons' successes and peaking at playoff time. Having rostered a number of promising young players with limited experience, the faster those players mature will determine the team's depth and in many ways both its floor and ceiling.
Coach: Tyler Cerveny (3rd year).
Last year: 10-14 overall, 4-10 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Brayden Blick (Sr., 6-2, guard); Austin Robison (So., 6-6, forward).
Others to watch: Nate McGregor (Jr., 6-3, forward); Connor Smith (Sr., 6-6, center).
Outlook: Four-year letter-winner Brayden Blick (13.0 ppg last season) returns with his 3-point shooting ability to lead a solid group of five seniors and an otherwise young Falcons squad. Though young, the Falcons will have plenty of size inside and expect to be a physical group that differentiates itself based on its effort. The Falcons tasted the state tournament last season and are eager for a return, which in fact has become coach Tyler Cerveny's expectation of his club.
TWIN PEAKS TIMBERWOLVES
Coach: Cameron Wright (3rd year).
Last year: 4-15 overall, 1-11 Mile High League.
Returning starters: Jake Dawson (Sr., 6-3, forward); Matt Phillips (Sr., 6-2 forward); Teagan Quintana (Sr., 5-11, guard); Israel Sosa (Sr., 6-1, forward); Nathan Wanninger (Jr., 6-4, guard).
Others to watch: Ben Ellis (Sr., 6-2, forward); David Jarvis (Sr., 6-1, guard); Jacob Widhalm (Sr., 5-10, guard).
Outlook: The Timberwolves expectedly took their lumps throughout last season's inaugural varsity season. But the team remains upbeat with five players bringing starting experience back to the table. Jake Dawson and Israel Sosa are capable low-post scorers and third-year starting guard Nathan Wanninger is ready to step up. Coach Cameron Wright thinks transfer David Jarvis will have an immediate impact as a scorer and defender for a group that has toiled throughout the offseason preparing to stamp its legacy on the program it built.
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