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Colorado High School Basketball

The Then and Now of Colorado high School Boys Basketball
written by Ron Fines

In 1990, the Colorado Orangemen of Denver, Colorado went on the road and won one of the most prestigious summer tournaments of its time, the Slam N Jam National Invitational Tournament in Long Beach, California. They went on to finish 3rd in the Basketball Congress International (BCI) in Phoenix, Arizona and were the runners-up in the BCI in Lubbock, Texas. The squad featured a team of players consisting of Eight (8) players who went on to play Division-I basketball. But gone are the days when the State of Colorado would produce this amount of Division I-A Basketball players annually. In 2008, the state produced only three (3) D-1 players and in 2009 just one (1).

There is no excuse for such derisory production of D-1 talent in a state with a population of just over 5 million people but there are a few reasons. One thought might be that the population of Colorado much less than that of other states that are typically great contributors to the landscape of college basketball. The state of Washington dispels this myth. The fact is, Washington produced twelve (12) D-I players in 2009 and the state has a population of just over 6 million, according to the US Census Bureau. Yes, Washington is 20% larger in population compared to Colorado (6 million to 5 million) but this would suggest that Colorado should have produced 10 Division One players, not one.

The topic of Demographics is one that always enters the equation when discussing basketball talent. According to the University Of Minnesota School Of Kinesiology, during the 2005-2006 basketball season, 58.9% of all D-1 men’s basketball players were Black. So does Washington have a greater Black population than Colorado? They do not. The 2009 Census estimates that 4.4% of Colorado’s population is Black compared to 3.9% of Washington’s. This evidence suggests that demographics can be thrown out as a factor in Colorado’s dearth of quality players compared Washington’s gluttony of them.

There are two main culprits in the steady decline of Colorado high school kids getting D-I scholarships. The governing body of Colorado’s high school sports, Colorado High School Athletics Association (CHSAA) and the exorbitant amount of summer travel teams available today.

CHSAA has not been very helpful over the years with the ridiculous restrictions that they put on the amount of games teams can play in a given season. Article 3010 of the CHSAA bylaws states:

Member schools that are in a classification that does not have a district tournament shall not participate in more than 23 games, exclusive of region and state contests during a season. Member schools that are in a classification that has a district tournament shall not participate in more than 19 games, exclusive of district, regional and state contests during a season. No member school shall permit any of its sub-varsity basketball teams to participate in more than 19 games.

In California, high school basketball teams have up to twenty-seven regular season games and they are not required to take a two week break for the Christmas holiday. This gives California kids a decisive advantage with respect to being seen and evaluated by college coaches.

If the college coaches will not come out to see Colorado high school players during their high school seasons, then July becomes the most important month for a potential recruit. This is a live recruiting period for D-I coaches who spend the entire month traveling from tournament to tournament evaluating players.

In 1990 the Colorado Orangemen were really the only traveling team Colorado sent out on the road that summer, which guaranteed that the best players were all playing on the same team. On December 6th of 2010, lists over fifty (50) traveling clubs available in Colorado –the epitome of: the law of diminishing returns. Not only does this dilute the talent of the myriad teams hitting the road, but the coaching has suffered as well.

Since CHSAA does not appear to be in any hurry to accommodate potential recruiters and adjust its stringent regulations, Colorado must solidify its summer teams. In order to get Colorado back on the basketball radar, the state needs to consolidate its travel teams down to one or two very good ones and get the very best coaches available to coach them. This, sadly, will probably not happen either. There is a lot of money to be made taking non-talented players out of town to play in summer tournaments and as long as the parents are willing to shell out thousands of dollars to do this, it will continue.

So Coloradans who care about basketball listen up. This is a classic case of choosing quality over quantity and choosing the former is the only way to get your state back on the map, and back in the travel plans of the Division One Coaches.

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A Coach’s Guide to Winning JAM Games | A few little secrets

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