Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
10 PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tyler Converse, Sr., Legacy: His surname practically screams basketball player and he backed it up last season by averaging 17.3 points per game, third best in the tough Front Range League.
Joe Golter, Sr., Holy Family: With last year’s on-court leader Chris Helbig out for the season, Golter will be called on to help the talented Tigers keep their place among the state’s top 4A teams.
Justinian Jessup, Sr., Longmont: Signed to play at Boise State University next season, the reigning BoCoPreps.com Player of the Year is poised for his senior season and hopefully another deep tournament run.
Walker Korell, Sr., Mead: He hit 45 3-pointers while playing the sharpshooter role for the Mavericks last season but he has expanded his repertoire and expects to spend more time playing above the rim his senior year.
Chelton Lebon, Sr., Frederick: In a down year for the Warriors last season, he had the green light to shoot from pretty much anywhere and made the most of it, hitting from 3-point range 61 times as a junior.
Nate Lehnerz, Sr., Broomfield: A tough all-around player, he’ll team with senior forward Jack Burgesser and the rest of the Eagles on what they hope will be a bounce-back season after a an exceptionally icy winter in 2014-15.
Kevin Mitchell, Sr., Longmont: Leading the Trojans with 18 points in last season’s 4A state title game, he will again attack opponents with his rare combination of post and mid-range offensive skills.
Mac Rowan, Sr., Monarch: The Coyotes’ top scorer as a junior, he will likely need to assume a more prominent role for a Monarch club that has already lost a pair of potential starters in the offseason.
Frank Ryder, Sr., Fairview: The 6-foot-10 future University of San Diego big man returns to native Colorado to lead the Knights for his senior season after sharpening his skills at IMG Academy in Florida.
Landon Taliaferro, Sr., Boulder: He led the Panthers with 13.7 points per game last season and will likely be called upon to be more productive after last season’s senior class exodus leaves the Panthers looking to fill in the gaps.
The regular season for all classifications ends Feb. 20. The Class 5A (48 teams) and Class 4A (32 teams) state tournament brackets will be determined by Feb. 21. The Class 3A (32 teams) state tournament bracket will be determined by Feb. 28. Class 1A and Class 2A will play in regional tournaments to establish 8-team state tournament participants. Championship weekend is March 10-12 at four different locations (5A and 4A at Coors Events Center; 3A at the Denver Coliseum; 2A at CSU-Pueblo; 1A at Budweiser Events Center).
Coach: Jack Clarke (1st year).
Last year: 19-7 overall, 9-3 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Jack Boyle (Sr., 6-4, forward); Bill DiScipio (Sr., 6-3, guard); Landon Taliaferro (Sr., 6-3, guard).
Others to watch: Savoy Carl (Sr., 6-4, forward); Ben Posthumus (Sr., 6-5, center).
Outlook: The Panthers reached the Sweet 16 last season but graduated a large number of seniors, including point guard Garrett Turner, who had been the team’s catalyst for the past several years. Leading scorer Landon Taliaferro (13.7 ppg) returns, however, as does a new solid group of seniors. Many of this year’s players will have to adjust quickly to new roles during the team’s tough non-conference schedule.
Coach: Terrence Dunn (8th year).
Last year: 5-18 overall, 2-10 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Jack Burgesser (Sr., 6-6, forward); Nate Lehnerz (Sr., 6-4, forward).
Others to watch: Sam Foster (Jr., 6-0, guard); Kyle Rynearson (Sr., 6-4, forward).
Outlook: Last season was the Eagles’ first in Class 5A and coach Dunn said it was apparent they lacked the size and consistency of play to compete in the highest classification. The Eagles lost six games in which they had fourth-quarter leads in 2014-15. Still lacking size, this year’s team will look to feature its deep and balanced roster to hopefully move up the Front Range League ladder.
Coach: Travis Maron (1st year).
Last year: 7-16 overall, 4-10 Northern League.
Returning starters: Eric Gambon (Jr., 6-0, guard); Logan Platt (Sr., 6-0, guard).
Others to watch: Pat Beasley (Sr., 5-10, guard); Ben Fase (Sr., 6-2, forward); Trevor Klaus (Sr., 6-0, guard).
Outlook: With an entirely new coaching staff and very little varsity experience on the roster, “patience” is an emphasis for first-year head coach Travis Maron’s debut campaign with the Warriors. Though he is new to the Warriors, Maron is familiar with the talented Northern League having coached at Niwot three years ago.
Coach: Chris Mischke (1st year).
Last year: 8-15 overall, 4-6 3A/2A/1A Mile High League.
Returning starters: Elijah Bacher (Sr., 6-3, forward); Tanner Fulkerson (Sr., 5-10, guard); Chris Slade (Sr., 5-10, guard).
Others to watch: Zach Dupont (Sr., 6-3, center); Wyatt Watts (Sr., 6-2, forward).
Outlook: Veteran coach Chris Mischke, who has coached at several of the larger schools in the Boulder County Preps area, takes the helm for the Mustangs this season. Expect Dawson to put a senior-heavy, eight-man rotation on the court and play a more physical brand of basketball. While the Mustangs have solid guards, getting the ball inside will also be a point of emphasis.
Coach: Scott Melin (1st year).
Last year: 13-11 overall, 9-5 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Cameron McCurry (Jr., 6-8, center).
Others to watch: Clint Allen (Sr., 5-8, guard); Brevin Anderson (Sr., 6-4, forward); Chantz Schenbeck (Sr., 6-1, forward).
Outlook: Starting with 6-foot-8 center Cameron McCurry, the first thing you notice when you see the Tigers is their size. While four players taller than 6-3 should give Erie a height and length advantage over most teams in the Tri-Valley League, it won’t be easy to replace the statistical production of graduated star Kyle Leahy (18.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg).
Coach: Patrick Burke (1st year).
Last year: 5-15 overall, 4-8 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Kailash Graham-Bell (Sr., 6-6, forward).
Others to watch: Calvin Mooz (Sr., 6-0, guard); Frank Ryder (Sr., 6-10, center); Chris Weatherly (Sr., 6-0, guard).
Outlook: The Knights struggled last season but help is on the way in the form of University of San Diego-bound center Frank Ryder, who has returned to his hometown Fairview High after spending most of the last two years at IMG Academy in Florida. Taking over for Frank Lee, who hung up the whistle after 18 years leading the Knights, head coach Patrick Burke is another interesting new face at Fairview. The Knights will have good size this season and are looking forward to finding out exactly what they have during a tough early-season schedule.
FAITH BAPTIST PIONEERS
Coach: Jared Gunderson (10th year).
Last year: 13-6 overall.
Returning starters: Clayton Eldred (Jr., 5-8, guard); Brandon Langridge (Jr., 6-5, forward); Caleb Pene (Sr., 6-4, forward); Branden Smith (Sr., 5-3, wing); Nicholas Wyrwas (Jr., 5-9, wing).
Others to watch: Ivan Hoogland (Jr., 6-3, forward).
Outlook: This is an exciting year for Faith Baptist for several reasons. In their first season with a CHSAA-sanctioned program, the Pioneers will play as an independent but will be eligible to compete in the 1A District 4 tournament at season’s end. They will join the 5280 League in 2016-17 but the Pioneers are focused on the here and now since they return their entire starting lineup from last year’s 13-win squad.
Coach: Enoch Miller (1st year).
Last year: 2-21 overall, 1-13 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Chelton Lebon (Sr., 5-10, guard).
Others to watch: Alex Bessler (Sr., 6-2, forward); Nathan Washington (Jr., 6-2, forward).
Outlook: Inner turmoil hindered the Warriors’ development last season and they struggled to a dismal two-win campaign. But local veteran coach Enoch Miller joins the program in 2015-16 and could be the right man to get the Warriors back on track. With leading scorer Chelton Lebon (14.5 ppg) returning at point guard, this year’s club will get a trial by fire against three top-10 team in the first 10 days of the season.
HOLY FAMILY TIGERS
Coach: Pete Villecco (6th year).
Last year: 20-5 overall, 13-1 Tri-Valley.
Returning starters: Joe Golter (Jr., 6-1, guard).
Others to watch: Kyle Helbig (Fr., 6-3, guard); Zach Horning (Sr., 6-3, forward); Andy Nelson (Sr., 6-0, guard).
Outlook: With the combined losses of Chris Helbig (ACL tear) and Luke Golter (graduation) the Tigers are looking to fill a massive void of 34.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. But the Tigers won’t change their system or their mindset, and expect a lot from their younger players that went 17-2 at the junior varsity level last year. The Tigers coaches will be asking a lot of junior Joe Golter, as well as several freshmen.
JEFFERSON ACADEMY JAGUARS
Coach: Mark Sharpley (16th season).
Last year: 18-8 overall, 5-3 3A/2A Metro League.
Returning starters: Shane Davis (Sr., 6-9, center); Joe Rodriguez (Jr., 5-11, guard).
Others to watch: Trevor Ballard (Jr., 5-10, guard); Justin Barlow (Jr., 6-2, forward); Dylan Bendure (Jr., 6-4, forward); Jaylen Cord (So., 6-3, forward).
Outlook: After reaching the Great 8 last season, there is a good chance the Jaguars will suffer from a lack of varsity experience in a competitive conference. Their junior-heavy roster, however, bodes well for next season and Coach Sharpley is excited to see how the team progresses. Of course, Sharpley’s Jaguars have a 38-12 record in the last two seasons so there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about this season as well.
Coach: TJ Cole (2nd year).
Last year: 2-11 overall.
Returning starters: Cody Harris (Sr., 6-0, center); Nick Montgomery (Sr., 5-11, forward); Jordan Thomas (Sr., 5-11, forward); Eriq Warren (So., 5-9, guard).
Others to watch: Cody Watt (Sr., 5-11, guard); Christian Varela (Jr., 5-8, guard); Francisco Herrera (Jr., 5-11, center).
Outlook: Second-year coach TJ Cole thinks this year’s team has a chance to be competitive in the charter school basketball league this season. With plenty of experience returning from last year, including two-year varsity players Nick Montgomery and Eriq Warren, it looks like the Phoenix may have what it takes to prove Cole right if the team can come together.
Coach: Gunnar Johnson (6th year).
Last year: 10-14 overall, 3-9 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Jake Boekenstedt (Sr., 5-9, guard); Tyler Converse (Sr., 6-2, guard); Jeffrey Salazar (Sr., 5-10, guard); Dalton Royer (Sr., 6-4, forward).
Others to watch: Garin Leopord (Jr., 6-3, forward); Geoffrey Davis (Sr., 6-3, forward).
Outlook: “We could be very good if we share the ball and trust each other,” coach Johnson said of this year’s group. “We also need to limit turnovers and win on the boards.” The Lightning returns four starters from last year’s team, which should make them a veteran group after playing in a number of close games last season. Lack of proven depth on the bench is an area of concern.
Coach: Jeff Kloster (22nd year).
Last year: 27-1 overall, 14-0 Northern League.
Returning starter: Justinian Jessup (Sr., 6-4, guard); Kevin Mitchell (Sr., 6-4, wing/post); David Speidel (Sr., 6-2, wing); Eli Sullivan (Sr., 6-2, wing).
Others to watch: Kolton Bachman (Sr., 6-2, guard); Cooper Rothe (Sr., 6-1, guard); Ryan Rulon (Sr., 6-2, wing).
Outlook: With half of the varsity team still in the football playoffs, the Trojans will have to change gears quickly to basketball season. That season overlap didn’t hurt them last year, as the Trojans went undefeated until the 4A state championship game. With plenty of talent back, including Boise State-bound Justinian Jessup (17.0 ppg), the Trojans are hungry to make it back to the University of Colorado’s Coors Events Center and the state finals.
LONGMONT CHRISTIAN WARRIORS
Coach: Myron Huey (2nd year).
Last season: 6-15 overall, 3-9 3A/2A/1A Mile High League.
Returning starters: Kenny Hannan (Jr., 5-8, guard); Cameron Juaregui (Jr., 6-0, guard); Luke Puchino (Jr., 6-0, guard); Jackson Solem (Jr., 6-3, forward).
Others to watch: Max Azar (Jr., 5-10, guard); Antun Maricevic (Sr., 6-7, forward); Zach Shaefer (Jr., 6-0, forward).
Outlook: Head coach Myron Huey raved about assistant head coach Alex Huey’s offseason strength program that he says added several pounds of muscle to each player over the summer. The addition of a stronger post game, Myron Huey said, should also help the Warriors build on the experience they gained last season.
Coach: Andrew Smith (3rd year).
Last year: 12-11 overall, 6-4 3A/2A/1A Mile High League.
Returning starters: Lars Basey (Sr., 6-4, forward); Owen George (Sr., 5-10, guard); Mitchell Simms (Sr., 5-11, guard).
Others to watch: Bridger Kean (Jr., 5-10, guard); Kyle Frohling (Sr., 6-3, center); Colton Thorne (Sr., 5-11, guard).
Outlook: The Lions have added size in the post and on the wings, and they will place a greater focus on the defensive end of the floor. Offensively, they’ll have to make up for the loss of last year’s leading scorer Zach Christiansen (20.2 ppg). Despite their new look, the Lions have set a goal of picking up four to six more wins than last season and making a second consecutive trip to a regional tournament.
Coach: Darin Reese (6th year).
Last year: 15-8 overall, 9-5 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Walker Korell (Sr., 6-3, wing); Van Lindemann (Sr., 6-4, forward); James Maher (Sr., 5-11, guard); Michael Ward (Jr., 6-1, guard).
Others to watch: Michael Rice (Jr., 6-3, wing); Derek Edwards (So., 6-2, wing).
Outlook: Left out of the state tournament bracket despite a 15-8 record, the Mavericks were perhaps the biggest perceived snub in the state last year. They haven’t forgotten. With that in mind, and with four returning starters, the Mavericks are determined to leave no doubt in 2015-16. The Mavericks have plenty of guard talent, length and athleticism to be versatile on offense but they’ll need to be consistent at the defensive end in order to accomplish their goals.
Coach: Ken Niven (18th year).
Last year: 20-4 overall, 20-2 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Mac Rowan (Sr., 5-11, guard); Stephen Hoban (Sr., 6-3, forward).
Others to watch: Isaac Green (Jr., 6-2, forward).
Outlook: This will officially be mainstay coach Ken Niven’s final season coaching Monarch basketball and the veteran coach has his work cut out for him. Extremely unlucky this offseason, the Coyotes have already lost expected starters Ryan Webb (shoulder surgery) and Nick Robinson (moved to Atlanta). After the team’s top-tier players the Coyotes have eight or nine players who all have similar skill sets and skill levels, so the Coyotes may play more up-tempo offense and full-court defense, which would be a significant departure from Niven’s traditional system.
* Note: The Nederland Panthers are not playoff eligible this season and will play a junior varsity schedule because of low numbers and a lack of older players.
Coach: Preston Hardy (1st year).
Last year: 14-10 overall, 8-6 Northern League.
Returning starters: Ryan Kannegieter (Sr., 6-4, guard).
Players to watch: Michael Agado (Sr., 5-8, guard); Adam Barber (Jr., 6-2, guard); Walker Bounds (Sr., 6-4, forward).
Outlook: The Cougars’ four captains all said the team’s primary goal this season is to exceed expectations and rise from the middle of the pack to shake up the Northern League. While the Cougars lack height, they have a number of 3-point shooters who are scrappy at the defensive end. According to the senior captains, the Cougars are ready for this season’s challenges with a new style, a new attitude and a new coach.
PEAK TO PEAK PUMAS
Coach: Matthew Smith (1st year).
Last year: 7-15 overall, 2-6 3A/2A Metro League.
Returning starters: Jonathan Dee (Sr., 6-0, guard); Daniel Griffith (Sr., 6-1, guard); Peter Starbuck (Sr., 6-6, forward).
Others to watch: Jack Baker (So., 6-2, forward); Areeb Rohilla (Jr., 5-8, guard); Brayden Weyer (Jr., 6-11, center).
Outlook: With its three top scorers back and uncommon height for Class 3A, the Pumas feel like they’re ready for a breakthrough season. “The most success we have ever had in basketball as a school is playing in the Elite 8,” first year head coach Matthew Smith said. “We have the talent, the ability and the drive to go beyond that.” If they can put it all together, the Pumas expect to give Metro League opponents fits.
SHINING MOUNTAIN LIONS
Coach: Sean Lynch (3rd year).
Last year: 14-7 overall, 6-2 5280 League.
Returning starters: Jordan Cherin (Sr., 5-10, guard); Gavin Edwards (Sr., 5-11, forward); Luke Fiegal (Sr., 5-9, guard); Gray Hill (Sr., 6-1, forward).
Others to watch: Nathan Fairmont (So., 6-2, forward); Leo Mason (So., 6-0, guard); Gopal Zubaedi (Jr., 6-1, forward).
Outlook: The Lions were a good team last year and they only lost one senior. That’s right, one. Granted, that player was leading scorer Avery Sears (15.8 ppg), but the Lions were a balanced scoring team and the rest of their scorers are back in 2015-16. Expect the Lions to counter opponents’ size with speed in order to compete in the tough 5280 League.
SILVER CREEK RAPTORS
Coach: Bob Banning (16th year).
Last year: 14-10 overall; 6-8 Northern League.
Returning starters: Reese Barracks (Sr., 6-4, forward); Nick Hartman (Sr., 6-1, guard); Anthony Kasper (Sr., 5-11, guard).
Others to watch: Rhythm Ajanku (Sr., 5-9, guard); Trent Dykema (So., 6-3, guard); Andrew Rapp (Sr., 6-7, center); Sam Schlegel (Jr., 6-5, forward).
Outlook: Coach Banning likes this year’s mix of returning varsity experience, multi-sport athletes and team chemistry. He thinks the Raptors have what they need to be a physical, defensive basketball team and to have yet another competitive season in the Northern League. Expect the Raptors to be an energetic, balanced-scoring club similar in style to last year’s.
Coach: Tyler Cerveny (1st year).
Last year: 8-15 overall, 5-9 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Josh Angstead (Sr., 6-2, guard); Braden Blick (So., 5-11, guard); Matt Dietz (Sr., 6-5, center); Nate Higgins (Jr., 5-11, guard).
Others to watch: Hunter Gutierrez (Jr., 6-4, forward).
Outlook: The Falcons have hovered around the eight-win mark for the past four years. Under first-year coach Tyler Cerveny, who brings 12 years of head coaching experience with him from Omaha, Neb., the Falcons will try to better that mark in 2015-16. On the court, Cerveny said the Falcons will run a motion-type system. Of the court, he said they’ll continue to work hard and improve daily.
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