Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jonathan Castner / For the Daily Camera
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
10 PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tanner Baird, Sr., Holy Family: One of the top all-around basketball players in the area for several years now, he will lead the Tigers along with teammate Kyle Helbig as they look to get over the Sweet 16 hump.
Thomas Bounds, Sr., Niwot: One of a few bright spots throughout the Cougars’ 1-22 campaign in 2017-18, he led the team in scoring and is likely to do so again as the team tries to bounce back this winter.
Steven Croell, Sr., Broomfield: A double-digit scorer in 2017-18, he will have to step his game up to help keep the Eagles’ string of solid seasons intact.
Nick Eaton, Sr., Silver Creek: A key contributor during the Raptors’ run last year, he will be looked at to fill the void left by the team graduating four of its top five scorers.
Jack Olson, Sr., Legacy: He averaged 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game as a junior last season and will combine with Jackson Stapleton to provide the Lightning with a strong scoring duo this winter.
Jalen Page, Jr., Fairview: As a sophomore last season, he led the Knights in scoring with 14.8 points per game and figures to be one of their better all-around players again in 2018-19.
Brady Renck, Sr., Longmont: One of the primary catalysts behind the Trojans’ state championship run in 2017-18, how the slashing two-way guard plays as a senior will go a long way in directing his team’s retooling efforts.
Nick Vaver, Sr., Centaurus: He averaged over 15 points per game last season and showed himself capable of huge single-game scoring performances by scoring 20 points or more, sometimes much more, in six games.
Riley Welsch, Sr., Jefferson Academy: The senior, who happened to play for the Pomona football team this season, put up some fantastic numbers as a junior for the Jags as he boasted a 12-point, 7-rebound per-game output.
Jax Wilke, Sr., Mead: He led the Mavericks with 15.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, and gives an already long and athletic team a skilled big man to run its offense through.
The regular season for all classifications will be completed by Feb. 16. In Class 1A, three weighted regionals will produce the eight-team state tournament field which will then be seeded by a committee. In Class 2A, eight regional winners will advance to the state tournament and will be reseeded by a committee. In Class 3A, seven districts will each qualify two teams for the state tournament and the remaining 18 teams will be determined by RPI. In Class 4A, the nine league champions will receive automatic state tournament berths and the remaining 39 teams will be added based on RPI. In Class 5A, the eight league champions earn automatic berths into the state tournament and the reaming 40 teams will be added based on RPI.
Coach: Riley Grabau (first year).
Last year: 12-12 overall, 6-6 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Miller Davison (Sr., 6-8, forward); Tyler Turner (Jr., 6-1, guard); Caleb Wehmuller (injured — Jr., 6-1, guard).
Others to watch: Giles Schmid (Jr., 6-0, guard); Jackson Tanner (Sr., 6-7, forward).
Outlook: The Panthers will have a familiar face taking over as head coach this season in former Boulder High star player and assistant coach Riley Grabau. This year’s squad expects to have height and rebounding ability with Davison, River Blessing and Tanner, who transferred in from Chicago. Led by Wehmuller, last year’s leading scorer, Grabau is also confident in his guards’ ability to push in transition and shoot the ball.
Coach: Terrence Dunn (11th year).
Last year: 16-8 overall, 9-3 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Steven Croell (Sr., 6-3, guard).
Others to watch: Ryan Collins (Jr., 6-8, forward); Grant Swenson (Jr., 6-2, guard).
Outlook: The Eagles graduated seven seniors from last year’s team and starting point guard Steve Croell is the lone returning starter. But Broomfield has faith in a junior class led by Collins and Swenson and figure to be long and athletic, allowing them to pressure opposing teams and spread the ball around when they are on offense. The goal is to compete for a league title and try to get another top 16 seed in the playoffs.
Coach: Travis Maron (fourth year).
Last year: 9-15 overall, 5-9 Northern League.
Returning starters: Owen Koonce (Jr., 6-4, forward); Quinn Rubin (Sr., 5-11, guard); Nate Totel (Sr., 6-3, forward); Nick Vaver (Sr., 6-2, guard).
Others to watch: Joe Lynch (Sr., 6-1, forward); Asher Sugianto (Sr., 5-11, guard).
Outlook: Coming off a 2017-18 season in which they won a playoff game and came within four points of the Sweet 16, the Warriors are working to build on that momentum and continue the growth of the team and the program. There is no reason to believe they can’t since Centaurus brings back its top three scorers in Koonce (16.6 ppg), Vaver (15.2) and Totel (9.5). The Warriors also have an upperclassman-heavy roster but will need toughness and solid contributions from role players off the bench in order to achieve their goals.
Coach: Tobin Skenandore (third year).
Last year: 12-11 overall, 7-5 Mile High League.
Returning starters: None.
Others to watch: Brandon Day (Jr., 6-0, forward); Phil Geraghty (Jr., 5-10, guard); Coby Grant-Krenz (Jr., 5-10, guard).
Outlook: The Mustangs graduated nine seniors from last year’s team including Gavyn Pure, the player of the year in the Mile High League, so this will be a rebuilding year. That means the Mustangs will rely heavily on a group of five juniors and their other underclassmen to carry the load.
Coach: Scott Melin (fourth year).
Last year: 12-13 overall, 6-8 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Jordan Nguyen (So., 5-9, guard); Ethyn Tyson (Sr., 5-9, guard).
Others to watch: Kevin Loy (So., 5-11, guard); Cole Rademacher (So., 5-7, guard); Tristan Rademacher (So., 5-7, guard).
Outlook: Erie graduated a trio of double-digit scorers who were seniors last season but Melin still believes he has a strong core of players to work with this winter. Tyson (7.7 ppg) is the highest-scoring returner from 2018-19 and the Tigers will likely be undersized when they step on the court to open the season. But this year’s squad will have speed and quickness on its side and the Tigers look forward to mixing up their internal recipe until they find the right mix of personnel and style for them to win.
Coach: Patrick Burke (fourth year).
Last year: 17-8 overall, 11-1 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Henry Blackburn (Jr., 6-2, guard); Mark Dolan (Sr., 6-2, guard); Ashton Nichols (Sr., 6-3, forward); Mark O’Neill (Jr., 6-1, guard); Jalen Page (Jr., 6-5, forward).
Others to watch: Aidan Atkinson (Jr., 6-4, forward); Connor Monette (Sr., 5-9, guard).
Outlook: The Knights went 14-3 after Jan. 1 last season and claimed the Front Range League title with a young core. With most of last year’s team returning, Fairview is focused on competing at a high level from the beginning of the season and contending for another league title. Adding some exciting new faces to a veteran group that is fast and skilled, the Knights have a lot of pieces in place to put together another postseason run after falling just short of the Sweet 16 last winter.
Coach: Enoch Miller (fourth year).
Last year: 1-22 overall, 0-14 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Joe Cartelli (Jr., 5-10, guard); Jacob Green (Jr., 6-0, forward); Davis Richard (Jr., 6-1, guard).
Others to watch: Izayah Elize (So., 6-2, guard).
Outlook: Last season was a rough one for the Warriors no matter how you look at it. But with another year of varsity experience under their belts, there’s reason for optimism that this year’s players can turn things around. “Our focus this offseason was to improve team chemistry and commit to being great teammates to each other,” Miller said. “We are not big but as a team our guard play has improved, specifically through outside shooting, so I expect that to be a strength this season.”
HOLY FAMILY TIGERS
Coach: Pete Villecco (ninth year).
Last year: 16-9 overall, 11-3 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Tanner Baird (Sr., 6-2, guard); Kyle Helbig (Sr., 6-4 guard); Adam Jolly (Sr., 6-4, forward); Dominic Nellis (Jr., 5-7, guard).
Others to watch: Zach Becker (Sr., 6-0, guard); Garrett Green (Jr., 6-1, guard).
Outlook: With seven seniors and three juniors in the mix, this will be the most experienced group Holy Family has had returning in quite some time. Both Baird and Helbig are four-year varsity players and will lead the team both on and off the court. With all of that in mind, Villecco and the Tigers believe that this could be the season in which the Tigers get over the Sweet 16 hump if everything breaks their way. They are ranked No. 4 in the CHSAANow.com preseason poll.
JEFFERSON ACADEMY JAGUARS
Coach: Mark Sharpley (19th year).
Last year: 9-13 overall, 2-7 Metro League.
Returning starters: Dylan Beck (Jr., 6-3, forward); Elian Soto (Jr., 5-11, guard); Riley Welsch (Sr., 6-2, guard).
Others to watch: Zace Buckhold (Jr., 6-1, forward); James Spitz (So., 6-0, guard).
Outlook: Last year’s run through the Metro League was a rough one but the Jaguars return all five varsity starters this winter and after finishing one spot outside the 32-team playoff field a year ago, the team’s goal is to crack the bracket in 2018-19. Despite returning a solid core in Welsch, Soto and Beck, the Jaguars will be a young team again and will have limited size in the lineup. Still, they believe their depth and talent should be enough to improve on last winter’s nine-win campaign.
Coach: Connor Clay (second year).
Last year: 14-10 overall, 5-7 Front Range League.
Returning starters: Jack Olson (Sr., 6-8, forward); Jackson Stapleton (Sr., 6-3, guard).
Others to watch: Jack Borelli (Sr., 6-1, guard); Reese Huxtable (Sr., 6-1, center); AJ Servantez (Sr., 5-9, guard).
Outlook: After a season of growth and learning last year, the Lightning players expect to build upon that experience as they take on a much more difficult schedule in 2018-19. Clay believes that combination could prepare the Lightning for a postseason run if the team can utilize its senior leadership and exceedingly deep bench. Stapleton and Olson also give the Lightning a solid one-two scoring punch the team can rely on to put up points consistently.
Coach: Jeff Kloster (25th year)
Last year: 26-2 overall, 14-0 Northern League. (Won Class 4A state championship)
Returning starters: Oakley Dehning (Sr., 6-0, guard); Dallas Dye (Jr., 6-4, forward); Jaydon Elkins (Sr., 6-0, guard); Beck Page (Sr., 6-3, wing); Brady Renck (Sr., 5-11, guard); Calvin Seamons (Sr., 6-4, wing).
Others to watch: Austin Derksen (Jr., 5-11, guard), Grant Rulon (Sr., 6-1, guard), Ryan Schneider (Jr., 6-2, guard).
Outlook: Coming off a season in which they won the 4A state title, the Trojans have a veteran team with six players returning who started at one point last winter. Though it is the CHSAANow.com preseason No. 2 team in 4A, this is also a different team and is focused on creating a new identity after graduating several team-defining seniors. “Our focus is to compete each and every day, get better, and strive to be a great defensive team, a team that is unselfish and values every possession on offense while looking for great shots,” Kloster said.
LONGMONT CHRISTIAN WARRIORS
Coach: Jim Powell (first year).
Last year: 16-7 overall, 9-4 Mile High League.
Returning starters: Tim Eldred (Sr., 6-0, guard); Ryan Shellenberger (Jr., 5-9, guard).
Others to watch: Nick Holst (Jr., 6-0, forward); Lee Saunders (Jr., 6-3, center); Caleb Shanafelt (So., 5-10, forward).
Outlook: With a group of young, raw players, the challenge for this year’s Warriors group will be how to adjust to the loss of its top two scorers from last season, as well as a new coach in Powell. To do so, Longmont Christian will have to rely on a more balanced scoring attack and utilize each players’ individual skills efficiently. Also lacking size, the Warriors will lean heavily on speed, defense and toughness as equalizers.
Coach: Jahmiel McLawrence (second year).
Last year: 7-13 overall, 5-7 Mile High League.
Returning starters: Finn Basey (Sr., 6-4, forward); Tristan Chavez (Sr., 5-11, guard); Logan Farner (Sr., 6-2, guard); Colton Jonjak-Plahn (Sr., 6-3, forward);
Others to watch: Aidan Christiansen (So., 5-7, guard); Franklyn Dorschel (Sr., 6-6, center).
Outlook: McLawrence says the Lions’ preseason practices have been quite spirited and competitive, and that the players showed up in much better shape than last year. This Lions team will be heavily guard-dominant so shot selection and managing turnovers will be keys that determine how far Lyons can go. The core of this team has been together for some time but there is still room to grow.
Coach: Darin Reese (ninth year).
Last year: 15-10 overall, 10-4 Tri-Valley League.
Returning starters: Nick Jacobs (Jr., 6-3, guard); Will Maher (Jr., 5-10, guard); David Wilhelm (Sr., 6-4, forward); Jax Wilke (Sr., 6-8, forward)
Others to watch: Caleb Ayers (Sr., 6-4, guard); Trey Ward (Jr., 6-2, guard).
Outlook: The Mavericks are the CHSAANow.com preseason No. 6 in 4A and feel like they are in good shape to start the season, returning seven players with varsity experience from last year. Of course, they will continue to be a work in progress as they work to become a team that relies on its defense to fuel its offense. At 6-foot-8, senior Jax Wilke gives the Mavericks a skilled big man in the middle and their numerous lengthy guards should help them establish the identity they are seeking at the defensive end.
Coach: Stewart Brewer (second year).
Last year: 13-12 overall, 8-4 Front Range League.
Returning starters: None.
Others to watch: Evan Alexander (Sr., 6-0, guard); John Grigsby (Jr., 6-9, forward); Jack Ramsey (Sr., 6-6, forward).
Outlook: Well one thing is for certain, the Coyotes won’t be lacking in the height department this year. But with no returning starters, they will be lacking in experience. Defensive efficiency and effectively utilizing their multiple players over 6-foot-5 will be keys for the Coyotes, who will have to outwork opponents and go deep into their bench frequently. Monarch also has three new players who transferred in this winter and could help the Coyotes build on last season’s success.
Coach: Eric Hejl (second year).
Last year: 1-22 overall, 0-14 Northern League.
Returning starters: Thomas Bounds (Sr., 6-1, guard); Alex Erikson (Sr., 5-11, guard); Dominik Luthens (Sr., 6-5, forward).
Others to watch: Austin Rathburn (Jr., 6-5, center); Cooper Sheldon (Jr., 6-3, guard).
Outlook: After last year’s 1-22 season, Niwot is intent on supplementing early chemistry between key returning players and a talented crop of younger players that is eager to contribute at the varsity level. The Cougars expect to be disruptive with their length and seniors Thomas Bounds and Dominik Luthens give the team a solid inside-out combo. It’s going to take maximum effort on a nightly basis for the Cougars to bounce back but that’s exactly what Hejl is expecting from his team.
PEAK TO PEAK PUMAS
Coach: Matthew Smith (fourth year).
Last year: 8-14 overall, 2-7 Metro League.
Returning starters: Jonah Eaves (Sr., 6-5, forward); Riley Feddema (So., 5-10, forward); Max Higdon (Sr., 6-1, guard); Garrett Shriver (Jr., 5-10, guard); Isaac Van Tol (Sr., 6-2, forward); Jack Wilson (Jr., 6-2, forward).
Others to watch: Gavin Looney (Jr., 6-3, forward); Thomas Miller (Sr., 6-1, guard); Isaac Nevadomski (Jr., 6-1, guard).
Outlook: With seven new faces on varsity this season, the Pumas are focused on building a team dynamic, work ethic and practicing with the intention of outworking their opponents. Smith believes Peak to Peak made huge strides in those areas during team camps this summer at Colorado and Texas Tech. The Pumas will have played eight games before the holiday break, with the intent of building momentum early in order to accomplish their goal of winning 13 or more games and landing a state tournament berth for the first time since 2012.
PROSPECT RIDGE MINERS
Coach: Scott Iten (first year).
Last year: 3-17 overall, 1-8 Metro League.
Returning starters: Bryson Cuss (Sr., 6-3, forward); Austin Leopold (Sr., 6-4, forward); Micah Smith (Sr., 5-10, guard); Ben Sager (Sr., 6-0, guard); Joey Sager (Sr., 6-0, guard).
Others to watch: James Leuhr (Sr., 6-1, forward); Deric Shaffer (Sr., 6-2, forward); Zach Root (Jr., 5-10, guard).
Outlook: Prospect Ridge is looking to turn the corner from just being a group of players who are excited to wear the uniform and into a team that expects to win games. The Miners return their entire roster from last season and are counting on the growth and leadership of the nine seniors who are currently on the roster. With a new coach, the expectation is to be competitive in the Metro League.
SHINING MOUNTAIN LIONS
Coach: Tim Crouthers (third year).
Last year: 13-7 overall, 5-2 5280 League.
Returning starters: Reid Hill (Sr., 6-1, guard); Ben Karbassi (Sr., 6-0, guard); Perrin Thompson (Sr., 6-2, forward).
Others to watch: Bobby Alexander (Jr., 6-2, forward); Dylan Farrell (Jr., 6-0, guard); Elijah Hanzlik (Jr., 6-5, guard).
Outlook: This year the Lions have many players in new roles and will rely on new leaders emerging in order to post double digits in the win column again. Some of the production they lost to graduation could be replaced via promising incoming transfer talent and team chemistry already appears to be one of the Lions’ strengths. “These guys love playing the game and love each other,” Crouthers said. “We don’t have many expectations, but we are committing to competing non-stop and turning up the tempo this year.”
SILVER CREEK RAPTORS
Coach: Bob Banning (19th year).
Last year: 20-5 overall, 11-3 Northern League.
Returning starters: Charlie Belcher (Sr., 5-10, guard); Andrew Duquette (Jr., 5-10, guard); Nick Eaton (Sr., 6-1, guard).
Others to watch: Mario Garcia (Sr., 6-0, guard); Spencer Rich (Sr., 6-2, guard).
Outlook: The Raptors graduated a ton of talented players after last season but the cupboard is not completely bare. This year’s group should be small and scrappy, and should excel at shooting the ball. As such, the Raptors will likely be defined by their crafty guard play but also be helped by the addition of a tremendous multi-sport athlete in Spencer Rich. After reaching the Sweet 16 last winter, it will be interesting to see how Silver Creek retools and develops throughout the winter.
Coach: Tyler Cerveny (fourth year).
Last year: 10-14 overall, 4-10 Tri-Valley.
Returning starters: Austin Robison (Jr., 6-5, forward); Hayden Robison (So., 6-0, guard); Gage Robertson (Jr., 6-0, guard).
Others to watch: Braeden Elwood (Jr., 6-0, forward); Nate McGregor (Sr., 6-2, forward); Chris Roy (Jr., 5-10, guard); Chase Silva (So., 6-1, guard).
Outlook: This year’s version of Skyline basketball will be both young and athletic. One crucial component of the Falcons’ season will be how they can navigate through the early portion of the season in terms of injuries and filling in for the absence of several key players due to the football team advancing to the state championship game. Cerveny’s expectation is continued improvement throughout the season and a third consecutive playoff appearance.
TWIN PEAKS TIMBERWOLVES
Coach: Cameron Wright (fourth season)
Last year: 12-9 overall, 5-7 Mile High League.
Returning starters: Jose Payan (Sr., 6-1, forward); Nathan Wanninger (Sr., 6-3, guard).
Others to watch: Aidan Barber (Jr., 6-0, guard); Andy Garcia (So., 5-9, guard); John Morkunas (So., 6-1, forward).
Outlook: Following the program’s best season to date, the Timberwolves graduated eight seniors. But with a pair of starters back, Wright isn’t expecting a total rebuild though the team will miss the depth it had last season. Looking to improve on last season’s breakthrough, the Timberwolves have set lofty goals for themselves. They hope to reach the regional round of the playoffs this season.
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