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Aspen’s European hoops vacation

Nate Peterson
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times
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Aspen High School sophomore basketball star Cory Parker doesn’t speak a word of German. Junior teammate Michael Holmes recently bought a travel dictionary with common German phrases but has only memorized a couple.Neither is worried, however, about being able to communicate when they fly into Frankfurt this June with their coach, Steve Ketchum, and 10 other teammates to play against club teams from Germany and France. The universal language of basketball should make up for the lack of an interpreter, Parker said.”It’s going to be interesting,” Parker said of the two-week trip, which will feature games against 11 different teams. “It’s definitely going to be cool to see what the kids we’re playing against are like. We’re going to be eating with them after we play, and we’ll be staying with certain players.”

Ketchum, who coached a pro team in Karlsruhe, Germany for three years, said the trip will expose his players to a lot more than just top-level international basketball. The team will stay in Karlsruhe for the first week, and will take day trips to Heidelberg and Freiberg to see age-old castles and cathedrals. There will also be a foray across the border into Strasbourg for a game against a French club team.The team will then take a train north to Berlin and Gottingen for a firsthand look at the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and other landmarks of the Cold War.Later in the week, the team will travel back down south to Bamberg, on the northern edge of Bavaria, where former AHS exchange student and basketball standout Stefan Koenes lives and works. Koenes, who helped Aspen to a fifth-place finish at the state tournament in 1999, arranged for the Skiers to play against his home city’s top under-18 youth team, and will serve as tour guide for a day.The trip concludes with a journey through other Bavarian cities, including Munich, Garmish and Grainau. One of the final historical outings will be to the World War II concentration camp at Dachau, where the team will get a glimpse of the horrors of the Holocaust. Ketchum expects that day to be an emotional one for his young players, as well as the eight parent chaperones.

“Most of the kids on the team have never been out of the country,” Ketchum said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There will be so much learning taking place. The best part will be sitting down with the players and coaches and fans we have just competed against, and sharing a meal together each evening. The kids will learn so much from that cultural exchange.”The Skiers will definitely get a lesson in international basketball: Aspen will have to adjust to FIBA rules and regulations, which include a 24-second shot clock, an extended 3-point line and a wider lane.”It’s a lot of little things to get used to,” Holmes said. “The game is quicker because of the shot clock, and it’s easier to get 3-second calls because the lane is bigger. We’ve been working on shooting 3-pointers from a foot behind the line in practice.”The 11 teams that the Skiers are set to play represent a sampling of the different age and ability levels in the German club system.There are a few under-16 teams, but for the most part the Skiers will play under-18 teams. And, a handful of those U18 teams represent the best young talent in Germany, Ketchum said.

“There will be some games where we’ll be a huge underdog,” said Ketchum, who coached against future NBA star Dirk Nowitzki when he was in Germany. “Against some of the U16 teams, we should be the favorite. Against some of the best teams, there’s the definite possibility that we’ll get our tails whupped a couple of times.”The challenge of playing against the best is what appeals to Parker.”From what I’ve heard, they’re all tall and they all can shoot,” he said. “They don’t play much defense, which should be nice. It’s going to be a great challenge, especially because we’re a young team. We play better when we’re under pressure. I know we may get crushed in a few games, but playing in these games will bring us closer together.””I’m sure every game is going to be like a rivalry game, like Basalt versus Aspen,” Parker added. “They’re going to want to prove to us that Europe isn’t only known for soccer. We have to come out and match their intensity.”Help for hoopsTo raise money for its trip to Europe, the Aspen boys basketball team is hosting a golf tournament at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Iron Bridge Golf Club in Glenwood Springs.For $125, competitors get 18 holes, a golf cart and a boxed lunch.There will also be a silent auction to raise money for the team. For more information, or to register, contact Steve or Mardi Ketchum at 927-1840. Advance registration is necessary.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com


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