One of Colorado’s greatest high school basketball players in recent years will be back full time on the bench for the Boulder Panthers — in an entirely different role.
A graduate of Boulder in 2011, Riley Grabau will transition from assistant coach to head coach after the contract of Jack Clarke was not renewed. The change is sudden, with the first day of official basketball practice coming Monday.
However, with Grabau having been involved with the team last year as well as with the football team, Boulder athletic director Eddie Hartnett was confident Grabau will pick the team up quickly and continue the success of the program.
“I really like Riley’s relationships that he’s developed with the kids, and he is an employee here at Boulder who relates well to our student-athletes,” Hartnett said in a phone interview on Friday afternoon. “He’s a positive guy who we’re excited about.
“Whenever you hire a new coach, I look at it as an opportunity to develop skills, a skill set, to teach the game. Riley has a passion for the game and it’s going to be exciting to be able to see him teach it to both the student-athletes and to the rest of his staff. All new coaches have to learn, but I’ve been around him enough to know that he learns quickly and is able to communicate well.”
Grabau has been a fixture around Boulder since he graduated, often being part of the May Madness basketball fundraiser at the end of the school year.
He also grew into a well-rounded player at the University of Wyoming where he led the Cowboys to the Mountain West Conference Tournament title and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2014-15 — his senior year that also included leading the nation in free-throw percentage.
Then, there’s his career as a Panther. Between his junior and senior seasons, Grabau averaged 20 points per game and 5.5 assists, spearheading Boulder’s path to the 2011 Class 5A state championship game. He played his freshman and sophomore seasons at Faith Christian Academy and was a member of several all-state teams.
Grabau played professionally in England during the 2015-16 season, as well.
Boulder’s basketball team went 12-12 last season and made the postseason in each of Clarke’s three years.