Boys basketball: Football mentality vital in Longmont’s success

Five players from gridiron will play key roles on coach Jeff Kloster’s squad

LONGMONT, CO - NOVEMBER 29: Longmont High School's Brendan Barcewski (No. 11) poses for a portrait after practice on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021.  (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
LONGMONT, CO – NOVEMBER 29: Longmont High School’s Brendan Barcewski (No. 11) poses for a portrait after practice on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

The Longmont boys basketball team may just have more lifetime experience on the football field than the court — not that that’s a knock against them.

As local hoops teams prepare for what is hoped to be a more normal season inside the pandemic — up north in Longmont, the Trojans’ longtime coach Jeff Kloster boasts a familiar-looking roster. It’s not a reprint of the school’s football team — which had its season end in the 4A second round to Dakota Ridge two weeks ago — just feels a bit that way.

“When the page turns, we go on to the next phase (at Longmont) and you’re all in for that sport,” Kloster said. “That’s been successful for us and we’ll continue to do that so long as I’m around.”

Five players from football coach Doug Johnson’s team are now expected to be key contributors on the court for Kloster as the Trojans come off last season’s Final Four appearance.

Among them, star quarterback Keegan Patterson is back in his third year on varsity after he led the state in passing with 3,609 yards. He’ll be accompanied by his two favorite targets on the football field in Colorado’s top two receiving leaders Caleb Johnson (1,322 yards) and Jack Moll (1,255). They’ll be joined by the team’s tackle leaders in senior Kale Derksen (78) and sophomore Cole Gaddis (75).

And in the middle of them, Brendan Barcewski.

A football name like Tarkenton or Butkus, Barcewski will look to take over as the team’s primary big man with the departure of Eddie Kurjak, who was the team’s longtime star center and is now at Colorado Mesa. Still a relative basketball novice, Barcewski had been exclusively a football player up until his sophomore year but now is expected to start for Kloster for a second straight season.

“Bottom line is we love multi-sport athletes,” said Kloster, who himself played both baseball and basketball while at Western State College in the late 70s. “With the football kids, there’s that mentality of toughness and you need that. You need to make sure you have those kids that are willing to mix it up inside. As you know we really stress defense and those kids that come from the football field have that mindset.”

Barcewski hopes to further make good on the transition. A Berthoud transfer after his freshman year, he came to Longmont with no real background in basketball. A few rec-league games here and there but nothing much.

Kloster recalled Barcewski’s uncle Matt Sharp — a Niwot alum — was the one who connected them. Friends with Kloster’s brother, the coach said the uncle relayed a message to him about trying to get his nephew to play basketball. With Barcewski’s athleticism and size — listed at 6-foot-6 on MaxPreps — the uncle knew it would be a project on the court but believed there was too much upside to ignore.

Kloster was taken by Barcewski’s athletic skills on the football field. How it could translate to the court. Then, more so by his character — deeming it “off the charts.”

For the last 2 1/2 years, Barcewski has developed on the fly under the Klosters. He carved a spot on the JV team as its 12th man his sophomore year, then improved and moved up the ranks. All-in by that summer, he then joined the Colorado Titans club team and that next winter he earned a spot in the longtime coach’s starting lineup.

“I think it blends perfectly with Cade (Kloster’s) defensive coaching style and Coach (Jeff) Kloster’s offense,” Barcewski said of the fit. “Just being gritty and getting up in someone’s face and playing defense as hard as you can and not taking a play off. In football, you can’t run a route at 50% and you can’t make a cut in basketball at 50%.

I think it helps having the football players as part of the team. It’s tough kids going in to get every board and playing as hard as they can, taking charges and not afraid of a bit of contact.”

In his final high school season, Barcewski will look to take another step in his hoops progression. The plan is that he will slide from power forward to Kurjak’s former mainstay at center. He said he’ll use what he learned from Kurjak to help him through it — from play in the post to pushing in transition.

His coach, meanwhile, said he just wants “Brendan to be Brendan. … play to your strength,” Kloster said, “and continue to blend your talents with those on the floor.”

And if so, it should be another good March at Longmont.

That month Kloster will get inducted into the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

As for the team he leads — with a blend of football pedigree and basketball smarts — it hopes to be a part of another deep run.

“I don’t think that we’re expecting anything less than a conference championship and a Final Four into the state championship game,” Barcewski said. “That is what we expect every year.”

Bringing it home: recent state champions
2021 — ThunderRidge (5A), Mead (4A), Lutheran (3A), Wray (2A), Belleview Christian (1A).
2020 — No champions crowned (tournaments canceled because of COVID-19).
2019 — Rangeview (5A), Lewis-Palmer (4A), Manual (3A), Yuma (2A), De Beque (1A).
2018 — Grandview (5A), Longmont (4A), Bayfield (3A), Yuma (2A), Peetz (1A).
2017 — Eaglecrest (5A), Valor Christian (4A), Sterling (3A), Holyoke (2A), Holly (1A).
2016 — Overland (5A), Pueblo West (4A), Colorado Springs Christian (3A), Sanford (2A), Fleming (1A).