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Boys basketball: Boulder taking strides under Grabau

Panthers, winners of 12 of 15 to close out 2018-19, aim to build

  • Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer

    Boulder High School's Adam Sessions passes the ball during basketball practice on Nov. 25, 2019.

  • Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer

    Boulder High School's Pete Boyle, right, shoots the ball during basketball practice on Nov. 25, 2019.

  • Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer

    Boulder High School's Pablo Dettling, left, passes the ball to Tyler Turner during basketball practice on Nov. 25, 2019.

  • Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer

    From left: Boulder High School's head coach Riley Grabau talks with Jimmy Starry during basketball practice on Nov. 25, 2019.

  • Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer

    Boulder High School's head coach Riley Grabau during basketball practice on Nov. 25, 2019.

  • Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer

    Boulder High School's Caleb Wehmuller shoots during basketball practice on Nov. 25, 2019.

  • Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer

    Boulder High School's Drake Arthur shoots during basketball practice on Nov. 25, 2019.

  • Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer

    Boulder High School's head coach Riley Grabau during basketball practice on Nov. 25, 2019.

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Boulder guard Adam Sessions didn’t want to feed into the annual hype machine that usually orchestrates the high school basketball conversation this time of year.

For now, state aspirations regarding a program that hasn’t sniffed them since their now-coach played is merely the same pipe dream that runs rampant throughout teams across the state.

The new energy inside Boulder’s gym, though — that feels real.

A 1-9 start for the Panthers last season was brushed aside after the new year as they won 12 of their final 15 games. During it, a young team appeared to buy in on its young coach, Riley Grabau, while a late-season victory over Fairview at the CU Events Center and a first-round postseason win only seemed to strengthen its achievement.

Year 2 has plenty of optimism.

“What interests me this year is how deep our bench is going to be,” Grabau said prior to the start of the winter season. “We honestly probably have 10 or 11 dudes that can go. They know the game, they learn, they feed off each other, they move well. Defensively, they’re not quite there. You can get them there, so we’re all connected on the same page.  But overall we just have depth in our rotation.”

Grabau’s energy is infectious.

His players brimmed of the same stuff in the waning days of November.

“Riley’s a genius,” senior guard Caleb Wehmuller said. “He played D-I basketball at Wyoming, has great motion-offense concepts and defensive principles. And most importantly, he brings a family aspect to the team. Everybody loves him and he loves everybody, and it’s a genuine love.”

As part of those good feelings, Grabau, the 2011 Boulder graduate, was officially named the head coach in April.

Prior to it, his resume included a decorated high school career in which he led Faith Christian to back-to-back 3A state titles as a freshman and sophomore before leading the Panthers to their last title game appearance in 2011. Then at Wyoming, his high basketball IQ deemed him as another coach on the floor. He averaged 30-plus minutes per game over his last three seasons before playing professionally in Scotland for another year-and-a-half.

“The biggest difference, the biggest change is I want to go lace them up, too,” Grabau said. “I want to go play a high school, college, professional game again. But I can’t. I’m stuck on the sideline trying to do all I can to relay the message to my guys.”

If they can’t hear them, Grabau believes his team is full of players who can lead on the floor. The real problem may be that he can only put five out at a time.

Tyler Turner is back after he led the team averaging 12.6 points in the team’s last 14 games following an early-season injury. And so is Wehmuller, who tore his ACL in practice right before his junior season after leading the team in scoring as a sophomore.

Giles Schmid, Pete Boyle, Alex Rucker and Sessions are also among returning players who impressed for a team that mixed up their starting five a year ago.

“I just like playing around with the roster and I’m probably going to play around with the roster this year,” Grabau said. “I like to keep guys on their toes that they don’t have a solidified spot. Like you got to come to work — lunch pail (in hand) — I don’t know who’s starting next game. We got two days to figure that out. Who wants it? Let’s go to work.”

All of it equals to a promising outlook. A promising Year 2, and perhaps beyond.

Asked about goals in 19-20, Sessions was frank in his belief in striving for a championship.

“If I was outside the program, I would not think Boulder would win state,” he said. “But I think that every single person who has been with us this summer, and with us this year, believes truly that we can win state.”

It’s all just talk for now. The Panthers know that.

It doesn’t make anything feel less exciting, though.

Boulder opens the season at home Monday against Chatfield.