Boys Basketball: Tough act to follow for Aurora boys hoops teams in 2013-14 season

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Rangeview's Jeremiah Paige
Rangeview senior Jeremiah Paige is one of only two Aurora players who were selected to last season’s Show all-star game who will return in 2013-14. The Colorado State signee averaged nearly 20 points per game last season. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

The 2012-13 season marked Aurora’s Golden Age of boys basketball.

By the time the season came to a close, city teams had won multiple league titles, eight qualified for the Class 5A state tournament, Eaglecrest rocketed to the 5A state championship and seven players — including four with college scholarships — were chosen for the Show all-star game featuring the top 20 players in the state.

It hasn’t been much better from a team or individual standpoint in Aurora hoops history.

The landscape looks vastly different in 2013-14, as only two of the seven Show selections return in Rangeview senior guard Jeremiah Paige and Overland sophomore big man De’Ron Davis.

Aurora Central’s Carlton Hurst (Colorado State), Cherokee Trail’s Drick Bernstine (Denver), Grandview’s Eric Garcia (Wofford) and Eaglecrest’s TreShawn Wilford (UC-Colorado Springs) graduated and moved on to college programs and Josh Perkins left Regis Jesuit to play his senior season at Huntington Prep in West Virginia before he heads off to Gonzaga.

But that’s not to say that things won’t be alive and well on the hardwood around Aurora.

The example coach John Olander’s Eaglecrest team set last season on its epic run to the state title — coming from being unranked in the preseason to finishing second in the Centennial League to knocking off vaunted Denver East for the title — is an example that’s being held up by coaches around the city and state.

Despite the respect Olander’s Raptors garnered by winning last season’s championship, they don’t come into the season with as big a target on them as many teams do a year after a title.

With the team the Raptors ran past to win last season’s state crown — Denver East — returning nearly its entire star-studded roster, Olander’s group is a bit further down on the list of contenders, even though the level of expectations has risen.

“People aren’t expecting us to win another state championship or maybe even make it to the Final Four, but I don’t know if we’re under the radar,” said Olander, whose team is ranked No. 5 in the CHSAANow.com preseason 5A coaches/media poll.

“I think we’ll be good enough  that when teams play us, they are going to get up for it,” he added. “It’s definitely a different feeling, but I think these are guys are ready to just get out and play and blaze their own path.”

The Raptors return senior guards Jaisean Jackson and LaDerian King plus junior big man Blend Avdili — who all stepped up in the postseason last year — while junior guard Elijah Ross and a host of young players look to keep Eaglecrest playing at a high level this season.

The Aurora team most certainly on the radar is Overland, which returns nearly its entire roster — including focal points in junior guard Austin Conway and sophomore post player De’Ron Davis — and is ranked No. 2 behind Denver East in the preseason.

Many observers consider the Trailblazers to be maybe the only team in 5A with enough athletes and depth to contend with Denver East, even though the experience level is still growing.

Coach Danny Fisher has noticed the hype and expects it to build as the season goes along.

“I don’t see how it couldn’t affect us at some point; we still have some maturing to do,” Fisher said of the preseason spotlight.

“Some of the preseason rankings might bother us a bit, but these guys have a huge chip on their shoulder,” he added.

The presence of Conway — the team’s top scorer last season and unquestioned leader — along with Davis, a legitimate 6-foot-10 phenom who has the attention of Division I programs across the country, alone make Overland worth watching, in addition to the contributions of senior T’Aren Williams and a cast of hungry young players.

Perkins’ absence likely won’t be as damaging as some might think for Regis Jesuit, which sits No. 7 in the 5A preseason rankings.

Coach Ken Shaw’s Raiders — which claimed the Continental League championship last season — have exited relatively early from the playoffs in each of the past two seasons after a run of three consecutive 5A titles in 2009, 2010 and 2011, but if Regis Jesuit displays the balance and depth Shaw expects, a return to the deep rounds of the state tournament is possible.

Junior Bryan Staerkel heads a group with depth inside and out.

Defending Centennial League champion Cherokee Trail lost Bernstine and a slew of others to graduation, so the growth of sophomores Ronnie Barfield and David Thornton are key to the Cougars’ fate. Grandview lost a ton of talent, but the arrival of move-in KyRon Allen is well-timed for coach Gary Childress.

With nearly his entire roster back, Smoky Hill coach Keenon Clement believes this could be the season his senior-laden team gains some traction in a Centennial League that experienced massive turnover.

Paige and senior Trey Bridges gives Rangeview the most experienced backcourt in the city as both are four-year varsity players, while junior Tarren Storey-Way’s length and athleticism in the paint make Rangeview a team that could stick in the top 10.

Aurora Central’s next rising star is sophomore guard Ladarius Thomas, who has virtually an entire new cast to work with. The Trojans should remain one of the top teams in the EMAC, while Hinkley — strong in the middle with Chance Drake and Brolon Moton — and rebuilding Gateway, under new coach Ernest Jones, also hope to remain competitive in the conference.

Transfer Romello Washington gives Vista PEAK a chance to be more competitive in the Colorado 7 in its second varsity season.

2013-14 AURORA BOYS BASKETBALL AT A GLANCE

2012-13 RECORDS: Aurora Central* — 17-7 overall (8-1 in 5A/4A EMAC); Cherokee Trail* — 18-8 overall (12-2 in 5A Centennial League); Eaglecrest — 23-5 overall (11-3 in 5A Centennial); Gateway — 6-17 overall (4-5 in 5A/4A EMAC); Grandview – 16-8 overall (10-4 in 5A Centennial League); Hinkley — 8-15 overall (5-4 in 5A/4A EMAC); Overland — 15-10 overall (6-8 in 5A Centennial League); Rangeview — 20-5 overall (8-1 in 5A/4A EMAC); Regis Jesuit* — 21-5 overall (10-1 in 5A Continental League); Smoky Hill — 5-19 overall (1-13 in 5A Centennial League); Vista PEAK — 9-15 overall (5-7 in 3A/4A Colorado 7 League)  * — Denotes league champion

PLAYERS TO WATCH: KyRon Allen, sr., Grandview; Blend Avdili, jr., Eaglecrest; Ronnie Barfield, soph., Cherokee Trail; Kip Boryla, jr., Regis Jesuit; Trey Bridges, sr., Rangeview; Devon Brown, sr., Grandview; Noah Butler, jr., Vista PEAK; Trent Clay, sr., Smoky Hill; Elijah Coleman, soph., Aurora Central; Austin Conway, jr., Overland; De’Ron Davis, soph., Overland; Chance Drake, sr., Hinkley; Austin Hall, sr., Gateway; Jaisean Jackson, sr., Eaglecrest; Devin Kadillak, sr., Regis Jesuit; LaDerian King, sr., Eaglecrest; Tyler Larkin, sr., Cherokee Trail; Izaiah Lottie, jr., Cherokee Trail; Brolon Moton, sr., Hinkley; Jeremiah Paige, sr., Rangeview; Elijah Ross, jr., Eaglecrest; Elijah Sanford, jr., Regis Jesuit; Tarren Storey-Way, jr., Rangeview; Ladarius Thomas, soph., Aurora Central; David Thornton, soph., Cherokee Trail; Romello Washington, sr., Vista PEAK; Chris Williams, sr., Smoky Hill; T’Aren Williams, sr., Overland; Isaiah Young, jr., Vista PEAK

COACHES: Aurora Central — Ian Calvert; Cherokee Trail — Morgan Gregory; Eaglecrest — John Olander; Gateway — Ernest Jones; Grandview — Gary Childress; Hinkley — Calvin Kelley; Overland — Danny Fisher; Rangeview — Shawn Palmer; Regis Jesuit — Ken Shaw; Smoky Hill — Keenon Clement; Vista PEAK — Josh Brenning

Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel