League and team outlook
Front Range League
Teams and trends: Boulder, Broomfield, Fairview, Fort Collins, Fossil Ridge, Horizon, Legacy, Loveland, Monarch, Mountain Range, Poudre, Rocky Mountain. The Knights won the past three league titles under former coach Patrick Burke. A year ago, in a bit of dramatics, they beat the Panthers late in the regular season at the CU Events Center to all but clinch their third. Also in 2020: Boulder, Broomfield and Fairview reached the Sweet 16. The Knights made it past that and all the way to the Final Four before the tournament was called off due to the pandemic.
2019-20 league leaders: Greeley West’s Colton Gillingham led the league in scoring with 19.3 points per game. Area guys like Fairview’s Greysen Carter (17.5) and Broomfield grads Ryan Collins (14.7) and Grant Swenson (14.7) were also in the top-five in scoring. … Carter, now a senior, shot a ridiculous 58% from the field, while Collins was shooting at 52%. … Poudre’s Silas McCurnin hit a league-best 59 3s in his freshman season. … Collins led the league with 252 rebounds and made a league-best 126 free throws, 19 better than Rocky Mountain grad Joseph Naddy in second. … Horizon’s Brock Wisne, meanwhile, had 14 double-doubles in just 23 games.
Numbers game: The No. 1. That’s where MaxPreps.com placed the Knights back in November when it released its “Best high school basketball team from all 50 states” list. Last year, Fairview was in the Final Four before the early cancellation. Looking ahead, the touted program will have early nonconference tests against state powers ThunderRidge and Rangeview.
Coach: Matthew Smith
The Scorecard: The Panthers bring in their third coach in four years to lead a talented team that believes it can contend for a league and state title. With Riley Grabau at the helm last winter, Boulder finished runner-up in the FRL to Fairview for a second straight season. Then, it pushed into the state’s Sweet 16 before getting knocked out by Columbine. Now under Smith, the Panthers welcome back senior forward Alex Rucker, who missed most of last year with an Achilles tear. When on the court, he’s been a threat scoring and on the glass, averaging six points and nearly six boards during his career. Now back, he should fit nicely alongside talented veteran guards Drake Arthur, Jimmy Starry and Conner Reagan. Other players to emerge into big roles, meanwhile, could be senior center Elijah Graham and junior guard Logan Marshall.
Coach: Terrence Dunn
The Scorecard: The roles for Kevin McMahon, Landon Nattrass and Justin Spencer are certainly going to have to expand this winter. Last year’s Eagles, who were one of the three Front Range League teams to make it to the Sweet 16, had five seniors lead them in scoring. That included standout grads Grant Swenson and the 6-foot-9 Ryan Collins, who won’t be easy to replace. But Dunn, the team’s 13th-year coach, is optimistic with his new batch of seniors and the young core behind them. Spencer leads the returnees after scoring 5.4 points per game last season. McMahon had 3.2 points and Nattrass 2.1. Those numbers certainly should rise in 2021. Last year, Broomfield received a first-round bye in the state tournament and Swenson’s buzzer beater sent them past Pine Creek in Round 2. … If they can further build off that remains to be seen.
Coach: Andre Goldberg
The Scorecard: Goldberg takes over after a successful tenure by Patrick Burke — who went 79-45, reached the postseason in each of his five seasons and won the last three league titles. Those are Shaq-size shoes to fill, but, luckily, he should have some big-time talent to work with. Goldberg, who is a 2002 Fairview grad and a former all-conference player for the Knights, inherits a core that includes first-team, all-region player Greysen Carter as well as standout guards Grant Page and TJ Williams. Carter was among the state’s top stars in 2020, finishing third in league scoring with 17.5 points per game on 58% shooting. Around them, Fairview’s depth should be strong — especially if seniors like Roane Edwards and Brody Pinto can take the next step. The Knights graduated 2020 BoCoPreps player of the year Jalen Page, who is at Northern Colorado.
Coach: Connor Clay
The Scorecard: Legacy returns its leading scoring duo in Gavin Poxson and Macully Sehr as well as 2019-20 starter Tyson Spradling. Poxson averaged 13.7 points per game on 50% shooting. Sehr ticked in at 9.7 PPG, but showed his explosive ability when he dropped 28 in a win over Fossil Ridge. Spradling, meanwhile, had 6.7 PPG and more than four boards per game. The three should be cornerstones on a team looking to build off an up-and-down 2019-20 that concluded with a postseason bid. Other players to keep an eye out for on the Lightning include sophomore guard Will Thurston, junior guard Jacey Stelling, senior forward Christian Mitchell and junior guard Deven Sehr.
Coach: Tim DeBerry
The Scorecard: DeBerry’s first season leading Monarch was a successful one as he led the Coyotes back to the postseason for the first time since 2018. In their return, they came close to pulling off one of the bigger upsets of the tournament with a mere three-point loss to Regis Jesuit, which went onto the Great 8. Now it’s on to 2021: The Coyotes return budding sensation Sam Carlson after he scored 12.8 points per game on 58% shooting last winter. He’ll be joined by other returning starter Greg Gerhardt, who had 7.2 PPG and led the team with more than four boards a game. Filling the other three starter spots, as well as the top of the bench, could include guys like AJ Yost, Brayden Barry, Hayden Spracklin, Garrett Myers and Zane Miley.
Teams and trends: Centaurus, Erie, Greeley West, Greeley Central, Holy Family, Longmont, Mead, Silver Creek, Skyline, Windsor. It’s the first year for the NCAC, and at a glance, it looks like it’ll be among the strongest leagues in the state. Let’s refresh: Mead was spectacular in the 5A/4A Tri-Valley League the past two seasons, going a perfect 32-0. Skyline and Erie had sensational years in 2020, too, finishing third and fourth in the league. They along with Holy Family, which had an inexperienced team in 2020, all won at least a game in the state postseason. Then out of the Northern League, nobody has been better than Longmont. Other Northern teams Centaurus and Silver Creek, meanwhile, have been rising postseason successes the past few years.
Numbers game: Five. That’s the number of NCAC teams that reached the 4A Sweet 16 last year. Mead, which won 25 in a row and was in the Final Four before things got canceled, got one of its best tests of the year against Silver Creek in that round. Longmont, meanwhile, beat Widefield. Erie and Skyline bowed out.
Coach: Travis Maron
The Scorecard: No doubt, trying to move on from star Owen Koonce will be difficult. The Warriors grad was sensational over his career at Centaurus but has since moved on (and has already seen the floor for the CU Buffs in the Pac-12). Back at Centaurus, there’s still a lot to like and be optimistic about this winter. The Warriors return four senior starters in Mario Everett, Carson Hill, Dashiel Walker and Ryan Vaver. Everett scored 8.7 points per game and led the team with 3.7 assists per game. Hill averaged 7.6 PPG and 3.5 boards. Vaver was at 6.7 PPG and Walker 5.6. Look for junior forward JT Lewicki and junior center Kevin Bedford to be strong contributors as well for Maron’s crew.
Coach: Jimmie Lucero
The Scorecard: Lucero takes over the program from Gail Hook, who led the Tigers to a 17-8 finish and a Sweet 16 appearance in her one season at Erie. At his arsenal, he said he has five players who have started more than 25 games in their high school careers. They include Kevin Loy, Kayan Hargrave, Cole Rademacher, Jordan Nguyen and Kael Lucero. Out of that bunch, Loy and Hargrave have received all-conference accolades. The Tigers also look like they’ll have some nice depth with Tristan Rademacher and football menace John Pastore, who was among the state’s top offensive lineman in 2020. (He also blocked a state record nine — nine! — kicks in the fall.) “Our goals are to be playing the last weekend of the season and to establish ourselves as one of the top teams in the state from the start,” the coach said.
Holy Family Tigers
Coach: Pete Villecco
The Scorecard: The Tigers lost two standout seniors and are very young. But it’s Holy Family, and it usually figures out a way to be successful with whatever it has. Here’s where the Tigers are: They graduated studs Garrett Green and point guard magician Dom Nellis, both of whom led a young team to the second round of the postseason last winter. Meanwhile, they return only three players with any varsity time from last year in starting forwards Blake Hammond, Jackson Ward and reserve guard Connor Cooney. And yet there’s no rebuild talk from Villecco. The coach said he is excited about his young group, even as the Tigers will have to count on contributions from four sophomores, including Rocco Bridges, and a freshman, Gabe Tafoya. He also likes his young point guard, sophomore Eric Quintana, who takes the torch from Nellis.
Coach: Jeff Kloster
The Scorecard: Longmont had long dominated the Northern League, reaching 36 straight wins in the conference before Silver Creek finally put a stop to that last February. Where will it position itself in the NCAC? With Kloster in charge, a good bet would be somewhere near the top. It’s true the Trojans lost a lot from a team that reached the Great 8 a season ago. But they do return Eddie Kurjak, a flying highlight reel. The 6-9 big man, committed to Colorado Mesa, averaged 14.2 points per game at an absurd 69% shooting clip last winter to go along with 6.6 rebounds. He could be among the top players in the area this winter when all is said and done. Others to watch include Longmont’s dynamic quarterback Keegan Patterson, who is a point guard, as well as Caleb Johnson, Brendan Barcewski, Connor Taylor and Kale Derksen.
Coach: Darin Reese
The Scorecard: The Mavericks didn’t lose a game last winter after falling in overtime to Palmer in their opener. In fact, they were rarely tested. But unfortunately they didn’t get a chance at the title due to the cancellation of the state tournament. So, where do you go from here? With their outstanding 2020 class gone, the Mavs will likely lean on a pair of juniors who played significant minutes last winter in guard Elijah Knudsen and center JP Shiers. Knudsen, among the best sophomores in the state last season, averaged 11.6 points per game and hit 68 3s. Shiers, meanwhile, led the team with 6.5 rebounds to go along with his 7.1 PPG. Other expected key contributors include sophomore guard Nick Basson, junior forward Will Tenore and junior forward Corby Tecu.
Silver Creek Raptors
Coach: Bob Banning
The Scorecard: Silver Creek was among the best teams in Class 4A last season — and if not for a rather ungenerous seed that resulted in a Sweet 16 date against Mead, its journey may have had more legs to it. Looking at this winter, Banning’s team moves from 4A to 5A, part of a diverse NCAC that is made up of seven 4A teams and four 5A teams. As his roster goes, the Raptors did lose point guard Andrew Duquette, who was sensational with 18.2 PPG in 2019-20. But they do return a pair of long, athletic juniors in Andrew Scott and Tanner Call, who impressed throughout their sophomore campaigns. Senior Dylan Johnson is also back, and so is Karson Hills and Eli Hubert. Aidan Miller, a 6-7 center, should be fun to see again in 2021 as his game progresses.
Coach: Tyler Cerveny
The Scorecard: Cerveny’s team won 19 games last winter and reached the Class 4A Sweet 16. Next, the Falcons will move up to 5A, and they do so with a roster full of inexperience. A big need will be to find new go-to guys after graduating their top-two scorers in Austin Robison and Gage Robertson, who averaged 14.4 points and 13.3, respectively. Someone like Adrian Compian looks to fit the role after he was third in scoring on the team last winter with 11.4 points. Others to watch include the school’s touted quarterback, Chase Silva, as well as Nick Peterson and Caden Tapia. Unfortunately, they will be without Hayden Robison, who would’ve been a four-year starter but tore his ACL in football, per Cerveny.
Longs Peak League
Teams and trends: Berthoud, Fort Morgan, Frederick, Mountain View, Niwot, Northridge, Riverdale Ridge, Roosevelt, Severance, Thompson Valley. Another newly-formed league, Niwot comes over from the 4A Northern League, while Frederick is out of the 5A/4A Tri-Valley League.
Numbers game: 500. As in both Frederick and Niwot were above .500 for the first time in several seasons. Each program, in fact, was just two years removed from winning a single game in 2017-18.
Coach: Enoch Miller
The Scorecard: Frederick finished with 14 wins, its most victories in a season since 2013. The next step, Miller said, is trying to secure the program’s first playoff win in eight years. Last winter, it lost to Sierra in the opening round. “No doubt we lost some great seniors that will be missed, but we still have more than enough talent to be successful,” Miller said. “Also, I have seen a very positive cohesiveness with this group, which will be a key factor in this unpredictable season ahead.” Back are starting guards Izayah Elize and Ilan Marinoff. Ready for bigger roles are junior Alex Sturn and A.J. Hutchinson. Even with the loss of a nice 2020 class that included the hot-handed Joe Cartelli, Miller believes the Warriors’ quick-strike offense makes them a threat to compete near the top of the conference.
Coach: Clay Wittrock
The Scorecard: Wittrock’s first year at the helm of Niwot was impressive as he took a struggling program to 13-11 and fourth in a competitive Northern League. They eventually lost in the opening round of the postseason, falling to Air Academy by three. This year, the challenge doesn’t get any easier with no returning starters on roster. “We are a young team experience-wise, so there will be a steep learning curve for many of our players,” the coach said. “We have a goal of continuing to build the identity of a gritty team that plays tough defense and fundamentally sound offense.” Among players to look out for are junior guard Dev Mudukutore and senior center Gage Gruidel.
Teams and trends: Colorado Academy, Faith Christian, Jefferson Academy, Kent Denver, Lutheran, Bishop Machebeuf, Manual, Peak to Peak, Prospect Ridge Academy, Sky View Academy, St. Mary’s Academy, Stargate School. Lutheran has won the Metro League two of the past three seasons. Last year, it went on to lose in the 3A Great 8 while Faith Christian and Manual were left standing in the semifinals before the tournaments were called off due to the pandemic.
2019-20 league leaders: Manual grad Jaden Stoffell led the league in scoring with 25.1 points per game. He also had 16 more 3s than anyone else with 82. Peak to Peak grad Garrett Shriver was second with 66. … Lutheran’s Baye Fall had 252 rebounds in his freshman campaign. Next was Bishop Machebeuf’s Ryan Schmitt with 192. … Lutheran’s Tommy Apodaca had the most assists with 154. … Kent Denver grad Pace Billings had the most steals with 72. Jefferson Academy grad Elian Soto was second in steals with 66, but had the most made free throws with 79.
Numbers game: Five. As in, can any of the area teams crack into the top five in 3A’s arguably toughest league? No area team has done it since Jefferson Academy was fourth in league in 2015. Last winter, the Jags finished 5-5 and sixth in the Metro. Peak to Peak was eighth, Prospect Ridge Academy was 10th.
Jefferson Academy Jaguars
Coach: Mark Sharpley
The Scorecard: The Jaguars will again be led by the school’s girls and boys coach, Mark Sharpley, who is in his 21st season with the boys and second with the girls. Last winter, the boys went 14-9 and reached the 3A postseason before getting bounced by Manitou Springs. Now, Elian Soto and his 19 PPG from 2019-20 are gone. But Sharpley’s team does return starters in Justin Gordan and Ethan Livingston, who were second and third on the team in scoring last winter. Other names to look out for include Josh Dennis, Jeremiah Davis, Aries Mendez and Byron Smith.
Peak to Peak Pumas
Coach: Evan Eschmeyer
The Scorecard: Peak to Peak landed a former NBA player to be its coach in 2021. Eschmeyer played for the New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks during his five-year NBA career. The 6-foot-11 Northwestern product was picked 34th by the Nets in the 1999 NBA Draft after he finished with 1,805 points and 995 boards in college. In charge of the Pumas, he inherits a roster bare of much experience as the Pumas graduated their five leading scorers from last winter. Eschmeyer said his roster includes two seniors, including Corte Peterson, who leads the returnees with 3.9 PPG from 2019-20. He also said he has four sophomores and two freshmen that will see time on the court.
Prospect Ridge Academy Miners
Coach: Scott Iten
The Scorecard: The Miners are hoping they can improve upon their three-win season from a year ago. The program has set high expectations, Iten said: “This group is more focused on working hard to improve (more) than any group we have had here at PRA, and we think that will translate to more wins.” Returning is junior forward Andrew Cuss, who led the team with 10.7 points per game and 7.1 boards last winter. During his campaign, he had four double-doubles and was especially good late in the year, scoring 20-plus points twice in his final four games. Harley Clark, Max Vacco, Anthony Soto and Nathaniel Estrada should be big contributors for the Miners as well.
3A/2A/1A Mile High League
Teams and trends: Clear Creek, Dawson School, Dayspring Christian Academy, Denver Christian, Front Range Christian, Gilpin County, Heritage Christian, Longmont Christian, Loveland Classical, Lyons, Twin Peaks, Union Colony Prep. Highland has not lost a game inside league since the 2015-16 season when it finished behind former league rival Resurrection Christian.
2019-20 league leaders: Highland grad Tate Bessire averaged 22.8 points per game. His 61 3s were four more than his brother, Jase Bessire, had. Just down from that, Dawson grad Coby Grant-Krenz averaged 19.4 PPG and had 52 3-pointers. He also had 83 made free throws. … Heritage Christian’s Alex Brown had 238 boards, Highland grad Bowen Tolle had 211 rebounds.
Numbers game: 54. That’s how many consecutive league wins Highlands has dating back to Jan. 22, 2016. Can anyone stop that in 2021?
Dawson School Mustangs
Coach: Elwyn Davidson
The Scorecard: Davidson takes over for Tobin Skenandore at Dawson, which lost a lot from its 2019-20 offensive juggernaut. Coby Grant-Krenz, Riley Burridge, Phil Geraghty and Brandon Day each averaged double-digit points a season ago and are now gone. Players filling those roles include Daniel Gonzales-Hyde, Ishan Amin, Tommy Noonan and Ethan Duster. Gonzales-Hyde had the most impact last winter with 4.1 PPG. His best game came against Denver Academy as he scored 19 points on just 10 shots. The Mustangs finished third in league.
Longmont Christian Warriors
Coach: Keith Schneider
The Scorecard: Schneider takes over the boys’ program from James Powell after spending the past few years helping out with the girls team, athletic director Casey Jo McKim said. McKim, who is also the new girls coach for Longmont Christian, added that Schneider has “already started making a huge impact on our program.” Last year, the Warriors went 11-12 and were led by seniors Ryan Shellenberger (15.2 PPG) and Nick Holst (10.7). Daniel Vrooman, Kyle Saunders, Bo Laugherty and Caleb Schanafelt make up a solid 2021 class. Junior Christopher Gunlikson, a standout golfer for Niwot, adds a solid inside-out threat.
Coach: Jahmiel McLawrence
The Scorecard: The Lions return starters Tucker Mills, Nathan Richardson and Gage Basey from a team that went 7-5 in league last winter. Basey led the team with a double-double line, averaging 14.7 points and 10.4 rebounds in his sophomore campaign. Mills, just a freshman last year, had 12.3 points and 6.9 boards a game. Seniors Bode Shiver and Jordan Valente, meanwhile, should add experience and depth. Said McLawrence: “Our goal as a program is to improve every day in practice and we have been doing that so far. I believe we can be very competitive in our league and am excited to see the hard work these players have put in finally start paying off.“
Twin Peaks Timberwolves
Coach: Tyler Wright
The Scorecard: Wright takes over a program that had been led by his father, Cameron Wright, the school’s athletic director. The first-year coach will have no returning seniors from a team that went 3-18 last winter and didn’t win inside league. Returning starters include junior center Isaac Kieser and junior guard Josh Meyer. Kieser averaged 5.2 PPG last winter, while Meyer was at 3.5. Others to watch will be junior guard Rohitt Thapa and junior forward Erick Sickau.
Teams and trends: Belleview Christian, Beth Eden Baptist, Denver Academy of Torah, Denver Jewish Day, Denver Waldorf, Flatirons Academy, Front Range Baptist, Mile High Academy, Rocky Mountain Lutheran, Shining Mountain. After Front Range Baptist won the league three straight years, Denver Waldorf put an end to that with a perfect mark inside the conference last winter. Shining Mountain last won league in 2015-16.
2019-20 league leaders: Belleview Christian’s Logan Owen averaged 25.5 points per game in 20 games, while teammate Assane Diop had 18.9 rebounds in 12. Mile High Academy’s Blake Essex scored 21.2 PPG and was second in boards with 14.1. Shining Moutain grad Elijah Hanzlik was third in points with 18.6. … Front Range Baptist’s Daniel Macfarlane had 83 steals.
Numbers game: Four. League-winner Denver Waldorf won four of its league games by five points or less, pointing to the conference’s parity.
Shining Mountain Lions
Coach: Tim Crouthers
The Scorecard: The Lions, who finished 5-15 last winter, graduated top scorers Elijah Hanzlik and Dylan Farrell. They do return starters Tavan Karbassi, a senior guard, and Calder Nadelson, a junior forward. Said Crouthers: “We have a good-sized senior class and a large freshman class. We are very excited for this mix of experience and young talent in our program.” Adding, “I am encouraged to watch our senior leaders guide and teach our culture to the next generation of athletes here. It feels like our youth have come in with an injection of positive energy and enthusiasm that we are all excited to put together as a team.” Other names to watch include freshman guard Campbell Horning and freshman forward Jackson Carano.
Point me to the postseason
The postseason bracket has been condensed in each classification due to the pandemic. From classifications 1A-3A, league champions will automatically qualify in a 24-team bracket. The CHSAA Seeding and Selection Index will determine the at-large teams. From Class 4A and 5A, league championships will automatically get into a 32-team bracket. The seeding and selection index will again determine at-large bids. The regular season will be completed March 6 and the state brackets will be announced two days later. The state tournaments are scheduled for March 19-20 with the site to be decided.
Cream of the crop: 2020 BoCoPreps.com All-region team
First Team (Name, 2019-20 class, school )
Greysen Carter, Jr., Fairview; Andrew Duquette, Sr., Silver Creek; Owen Koonce, Sr., Centaurus; Jalen Page, Sr., Fairview; Will Maher, Sr., Mead.
Dallas Dye, Sr., Longmont; Garrett Green, Sr., Holy Family; Trey Ward, Sr., Mead; Grant Swenson, Sr., Broomfield; Tyler Turner, Sr., Boulder.
Eli Barrow, Sr., Legacy; Jacob Bartholomew, Sr., Mead; Gage Basey, So., Lyons; Pete Boyle, Sr., Boulder; Carson Briggs, Sr., Broomfield; Riley Burridge, Sr., Dawson; Tanner Call, So., Silver Creek; Sam Carlson, Jr., Monarch; Joe Cartelli, Sr., Frederick; Matt Chen, Sr., Monarch; Ryan Collins, Sr., Broomfield; Adrian Compian, Jr. Skyline; Andrew Cuss, So., Prospect Ridge; Brandon Day, Sr., Dawson; Chase Esplin, Sr., Legacy; Mario Everett, Jr., Centaurus; Dylan Farrell, Sr., Shining Mountain; Andy Garcia, Jr., Twin Peaks; Phil Geraghty, Sr., Dawson; Coby Grant-Krenz, Sr., Dawson; Jake Green, Sr., Frederick; Kayan Hargrave, So., Erie; LaDorian Havard, Sr., Erie; Nick Holst, Sr., Longmont Christian; Nick Jacobs, Sr., Mead; Elijah Knudsen, So., Mead; Eddie Kurjak, Jr., Longmont; Kevin Loy, Jr., Erie; Tucker Mills, Fr., Lyons; Dom Nellis, Sr., Holy Family; Mark O’Neill, Sr, Fairview; Grant Page, So., Fairview; Gavin Poxson, Jr., Legacy; Andrew Purdum, Sr., Broomfield; Davis Richard, Sr., Frederick; Gage Robertson, Sr., Skyline; Austin Robison, Sr., Skyline; Andrew Scott, So., Silver Creek; Macully Sehr, Jr., Legacy; Cooper Sheldon, Sr., Niwot; Ryan Schneider, Sr., Longmont; Adam Sessions, Sr., Boulder; Ryan Shellenberger, Sr., Longmont Christian; JP Shiers, So., Mead; Garrett Shriver, Sr., Peak to Peak; Elian Soto, Sr., Jefferson Academy; Tyson Spradling, Jr., Legacy; Jimmy Starry, Jr., Boulder; Caleb Wehmuller, Sr., Boulder; TJ Williams, Jr., Fairview.