Aspen High boys basketball hopes to overcome lack of size with athleticism | AspenTimes.com

Aspen High boys basketball hopes to overcome lack of size with athleticism

The Aspen High School boys basketball team is going to lack size this season. What it has in abundance are smarts and athleticism, traits second-year coach Alex Schrempf can work with.

"It's going to be fun to see because the IQ is there. The conditioning is there. The fundamental skill is there," Schrempf said. "Our goal is to really work with that size and play to our strengths."

The Skiers open their season Thursday against Class 2A Soroco at the Cowboy Shootout in Meeker, a three-day, round robin tournament where each team is guaranteed to play in at least three games. AHS went 2-1 in the same tournament a year ago, including a 74-37 win over a Soroco team that only finished the season 4-16 overall.

Aspen went 9-12 overall in Schrempf's first season as head coach. The Skiers started 8-4 thanks in part to a four-game win streak midway through the season, but only had one win over their final nine games. The lone win came in their Class 3A district play-in game, a 59-49 win over Moffat County.

The AHS season ended a game later with a 77-31 loss to Coal Ridge, the No. 1 seed in the 3A Western Slope League tournament that made it to the Sweet 16 round of the 3A state tournament.

"We want to improve. We want to do better, and I think we have a really good chance to do so," Schrempf said of the team's goals this year. "I like the dynamic of our team a lot this year. I'm really confident in them. I think their hard work is going to pay off in a big way."

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The Skiers will need to replace four of their five starters from a year ago, including the only two "big men" on the roster. Gone are leading scorers A.J. Detrick (14.6 points per game) and Zack George (9.45 ppg.). Also gone due to graduation are James Kistner and Quinton O'Keeffe.

Returning at point guard is junior Noah Hollander, who is fresh off a monster fall playing receiver for the AHS football team. For the basketball team, he'll have to play more of a quarterback role, something Schrempf believes he can handle.

"He's a workhorse," Schrempf said of Hollander. "He's got an IQ for whatever sport he plays. It's pretty cool to watch. He just absorbs stuff. Having him at the point guard position with this group is going to be essential for us because we can base a lot of what we are doing off his decision-making."

While the team lacks starting experience, it does return plenty of players who saw significant varsity time a season ago. The Skiers look to be led by a strong junior class that includes Hollander.

A lot of the experience is with the sophomores, however, such as Trey Fabrocini and Jon Woodrow. The team does have three seniors — Dillon Leasure, Preston Mottier and Nick Willson — who, while maybe not the most talented on the roster, Schrempf said are a shining example of what senior leaders should be.

"They do the little things we emphasis and really make it easy for us to get that point across to the underclassmen," Schrempf said. "I like the dynamic. There is good chemistry on the court, off the court. That's a good starting point for us."

After this week's tournament in Meeker, Aspen will next play Roaring Fork on Tuesday in the home opener for both the AHS boys and girls. It will be the only home game for Aspen this side of the holiday break.

The Skiers, who played a road-heavy schedule a year ago, could benefit from a home-heavy schedule this winter. The team has a stretch of seven home games in eight contests, with that lone road game being in Basalt on Jan. 11. Aspen will host the Longhorns in their final home game on Feb. 16 before closing out the regular season on Feb. 17 at Roaring Fork.

"I wouldn't be able to tell you what I think our overall record is going to be, but like I said, we are shooting for consistent improvement every day in every way," Schrempf said. "They seem really excited. The energy going into the start of the season was palpable. There was way more than what I felt last year. That's just in itself a great place to start."

acolbert@aspentimes.com