The 2013-14 Colorado high school basketball season begins this week for all classifications. Traditionally strong 5A program Ralston Valley plays at preseason 4A favorite Valor Christian on Tuesday and Ponderosa plays at Cheyenne Mountain on Thursday in a battle between two intriguing 4A teams. Here is a preview of the top 4A teams and players to watch for and some other players to keep an eye on in Colorado's smaller classifications.
4A Team Rankings
1. Valor Christian-The Eagles, coming off a state title game appearance against Lewis-Palmer, have an excellent backcourt led by San Francisco signee Chase Foster. Foster, a 6'4 wing with athleticism, is a high level scorer and one of the premier players in 4A. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford football commit and arguably the best football player in the state, is also a very good basketball player. Garrett Baggett is a good shooter with a quick and smooth release that helps him get his shot off despite his 5'11 stature. This trio of senior guards makes the Eagles a very dangerous team in 4A.
2. Denver South-The Rebels boast perhaps the most talented roster in 4A. 6'6 F Ibrahim Sylla, a Northern Colorado signee, is the most dominant rebounding and shot blocking force in the classification as he averaged 11.1 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game last season. Sylla is a highlight reel player with big time athleticism and an improving low post game on offense. 2014 6'2 guard Tyson Purifoy has a great feel for the game. He knows when to pull up for a jumper or when to drive it. Cool, calm demeanor and a confident player who does everything on the court pretty well. 2014 5'8 PG Antonio Garcia is a fiery competitor and a good floor general. Denver South will be one of the top teams in a strong Denver Prep League.
3. Cheyenne Mountain-2014 6'3 SG Ghassan Nehme, a Montana state commit, is a smooth, athletic player with a great jumper. Nehme has a high basketball IQ and draws fouls on a regular basis. He should be a contender for Mr. Basketball. 2014 6'8 F Reece Eddy is a bit of a project, but could be a serious force this season. Nehme's brother, Christian, and Nathan Resty, both junior guards, were solid as sophomores and are expected to contribute more as juniors this season. Cheyenne Mountain reached the Elite 8 last season and should be a serious final four contender.
4. Thomas Jefferson- 2014 6'7 F Treyvon Andres might be the most physically gifted player in 4A. Andres has great leaping ability, surprising speed for his size, a good handle, shooting ability, and shows flashes of dominance on both ends of the court. Andres' talent has never been in question, but he needs to become more consistent for the Thomas Jefferson Spartans to have a chance at claiming the state title. 2015 6'5, 220 pound F Josh McNair could be a big time sleeper. McNair regularly plays above the rim and has the physical tools to also become a dominant force. Andres and McNair are both Division 1 prospects. Domenik Brewer and Sergio Garcia are solid guards for the Spartans and 2016 point guard Henry Cooper is an intriguing talent. Thomas Jefferson, a team that never lacks talent, will look to become a more cohesive, consistent unit in their quest for the 4A state title.
5. Sand Creek-The Scorpions lose leading scorer Josh Smith to graduation but return Air Force commit Dylan Clark, a 6'1 senior guard with the potential to have a breakout season. Seniors Langston Bell, Michael DeCarmo, and Kai Daniels are expected to have more prominent roles this season. Sand Creek went 23-3 last season and made an Elite 8 appearance. They will be right in the mix in the traditionally tough Pikes Peak League.
6. D'Evelyn-The Jaguars lost a strong senior class led by 27 point per game scorer Luke Stratman, but 6'2 junior guard Grant Witherspoon is a rising star after averaging 15.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.6 steals per game last season. Witherspoon is a good spot up shooter. 2014 6'4 F Ty McGee is an active player on both ends of the floor and will need to provide strong rebounding as D'Evelyn is a bit undersized. D'Evelyn is coming off a 24-2 campaign and an appearance in the Elite 8. Expect them to be serious contenders in the 4A Jeffco League once again.
7. Longmont-The Trojans return an excellent dribble-drive wing in 2014 6'3 Austin Kemp and a number of talented sophomores who got regular minutes on the varsity as freshman last season. Kemp shot just under 60% from the field and averaged 15.8 points per game almost solely on his slashing ability. He is expected to be Longmont's go to scorer once again, but will get plenty of help from sophomores Justinian Jessup, Kevin Mitchell, and Eli Sullivan. Jessup is a highly skilled guard with an effective jumper and is a strong defender. Jessup and Mitchell, a post player, both started as freshman. Sullivan is a small guard with speed to burn and is a strong rebounder for his size. Kemp will need to provide leadership for this young Longmont squad, but this team could grow into a dangerous playoff team capable of going on a tourney run. The Trojans have exciting young talent.
8. Pueblo East-Pueblo East will have ten seniors on the varsity this season and this senior class knows how to win as they finished 20-3 last season and 19-6 the season before. The Eagles are a bit undersized but 6'4 Jimmy Valdez and 6'3 Dylan Gavin are talented forwards and anchor a team known for defense. Pueblo East's senior laden team is expected to ride a defense that gives them a chance to win night in and night out.
9. Thompson Valley-The Eagles only lost one senior from their Sweet 16 team last season. 2014 6'4 F Colin Smith, the Eagles' top player, is a good scorer and an efficient one who is a threat from the post, mid-range, and from three. Senior point guard Grant Rohrbouck is another threat from the perimeter and is a floor general. Mike Olivas is another solid senior guard for Thompson Valley, a team that should challenge for the Northern Conference League crown.
10. Ponderosa-2014 6'10, 230 pound F Jonathan Barnes is a huge presence in the paint for the Mustangs. Barnes, a Wyoming signee, is coming off a strong summer on the AAU circuit. Barnes is only entering his third season of competitive basketball and should continue to improve dramatically. Junior G/F Colby Ongna will be counted on to provide more scoring help for Barnes and help a young Mustangs team grow into a factor in the extremely competitive 5A/4A Continental League.
Honorable mention: Falcon, Broomfield, Windsor
10 Other Notable Players in 4A and 1A-3A:
2016 6'2 G Michael Ranson of Pueblo Central-Ranson led all 4A freshman in scoring last season with a 15 point per game average. Big time scorer who regularly draws fouls. Ranson is the centerpiece of a Wildcats program looking to be much improved after a rebuilding 2012-13 season.
2015 6'4 SF Jake Gavitt of Elizabeth-Gavitt is a very efficient and capable scorer. He is an intelligent player who is an aware defender and a solid rebounder. Gavitt is very dangerous as a spot up shooter. Gavitt is the leader of an Elizabeth team that is the defending Colorado 7 Conference Champions.
2014 6'6, 220 pound PF Logun Javernick of Canon City-Javernick is a strong, physical player who tallies double-doubles often. Javernick could average 20 points and 10 rebounds this season and his coach calls him "a beast." Javernick is the star of a Tigers team that should be much improved.
2016 6'3 SF Justin Bassey of Colorado Academy-Bassey, an athletic player with length, fills up a box score. Bassey averaged 16.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 2.8 steals per game as a freshman and led a very young but talented Colorado Academy team all the way to the 3A state title game where they lost to Faith Christian. Bassey has already received interest from Denver and Northern Colorado and has a Wyoming offer.
2016 5'11 G Jack Buckmelter of Colorado Academy-Buckmelter is another one of the top sophomore players and in the state and plays on an excellent Chauncey Billups Elite AAU team with Bassey. Buckmelter has a good shooting stroke, a high basketball IQ, and understands when to drive and when to pull up for a jumper. Buckmelter, Bassey, and another talented sophomore guard in Christian Hyatt will give Colorado Academy an opportunity to create a 3A dynasty in the next couple of seasons. Impressive collection of talent for a smaller school team.
2014 6'2 SG Brady Baer of Akron-Baer has averaged enormous numbers the last 2 seasons in 2A. The Akron combo guard averaged 31.6 points, 5.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.4 steals per game as a junior and only scored less than 20 one time. Baer has not received much attention across the state playing in 2A, but he is a big time scorer.
2014 6'1 G Brandon Book of Swink-Book, also a standout baseball player, will be a four year starter in basketball this winter. Book was the second leading scorer in 2A last season as he averaged 26.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.6 steals per game and made 85 three-pointers. He also attempted 199 free throws and made 87% of them. Book is another 2A player who is mostly unknown around the state, but he is well deserving of more hype.
2014 6'6 PF Bryson Sharpley of Jefferson Academy-Sharpley has a college ready body and is a solid defender. He is very effective on offense in the paint and is one of the premier rebounders and shot blockers in 3A. Sharpley makes Jefferson Academy an intriguing 3A team.
2014 5'11 G Romello Washington of Vista Peak PREP-Washington is an athletic guard with speed and quickness. He is tough to stop in transition as he is a good slasher and has vision. Washington, a transfer from Kennedy, has a great handle and can be a hot scorer. He has received interest from some D1 schools and several D2 schools.
2014 6'4 SG Chances Matlock of Falcon-Matlock is a high riser who consistently plays above the rim. He is a big, strong guard with a jumper. One of the most exciting players in 4A, Matlock is worth the price of admission. Matlock has received interest from Air Force and D2 powerhouse Metro State.
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