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Aspen’s Parker above the rest

Nate PetersonAspen, CO Colorado
Aspen's Cory Parker pulls down a rebound in the first half of Friday night's game against Steamboat Springs.
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ASPEN Most high school basketball players would be ecstatic when told of their selection to an all-state team.Not Cory Parker.The Aspen junior said a sense of relief – not elation – initially washed over him last week when he learned that he was one of only five players named to the Rocky Mountain News’ first team in Colorado’s class 3A.He set a goal of making the team before the season started, so to do so wasn’t necessarily a surprise for someone who felt he was among the state’s elite, Parker said. The selection was, if anything, reassurance from the Front Range media that he’s on the path to playing at the next level.”It was relieving and rewarding,” said the versatile 6-foot-6 forward who averaged 23 and 1/2 points and nine rebounds for the 16-7 Skiers, who lost in the first round of the regional playoffs. “It was really cool, just because I’m a junior. There was a sophomore from [3A state champion] Eaton, but otherwise the rest of the guys were seniors.”

Skiers coach Steve Ketchum said Parker – also the unanimous 3A Western Slope MVP – has the potential to be the best player to ever come through Aspen High.Other Skiers have earned all-state selections during his nine years as head coach, but none of them after their junior seasons, Ketchum said.That includes Nick Farrell, a Division III All-American this past season at Maine’s Colby College who broke numerous records as a four-year starter for the Skiers, and Robert Tomaszek, who went on to become a Junior College All-American at Eastern Wyoming before playing for Bob Knight at Texas Tech.Parker already is being recruited by some lower-tier Division I schools, including the University of Denver and the University of Northern State in South Dakota. He also has received letters from UCLA and Texas Tech, although both schools have shown the least interest among his suitors, he said.Lower-division schools such as Northern Colorado and Western State, by comparison, have been giving him the full-court press, but Parker said ideally he wants to play for a DI program.”That’s been my goal since I was little,” Parker said. “That’s where the bar is set for me. I’m looking at all the schools who are interested in me, and then choosing the best one for me. I’d love to play somewhere like UCLA, but right now the schools that I could probably realistically play at are lower-level Division I schools.”

Parker isn’t limiting his options, however, and has begun an offseason program to upgrade his recruiting profile.He plans on spending long hours in the weight room this spring and is set to play with the state’s top under-17 AAU team – the Colorado Chaos – this summer.The team will travel extensively and play against some of best talent from around the country in gyms that will be teeming with college scouts. “I keep asking college coaches after sending them game tape, ‘What do you like and what is he is missing?’ Ketchum said. “He’s a [6-foot-6] point guard who can shoot NBA 3-pointers, and he’s got great post-up moves, but what they said he’s lacking was that explosiveness, that pop. He’s gotta get more athletic and just be able to out run and out jump people. … Basically, faster, quicker, stronger.”Ketchum said the biggest thing holding Parker back is the lack of competition on the Western Slope and at tiny Aspen High. “What he knows is that on our team, and against league opponents, he can cruise at half speed and be successful,” Ketchum said. “But he’s going to be in a for a rude awakening next year, because we’re going to find ways to make it hard on him. We’ll challenge him so that he has to work hard all the time, not just when he wants to.”

Ketchum and Parker both agree that one of the best challenges so far for the talented junior was the Skiers trip to Germany last summer. Parker averaged nearly 30 points a game against some top-tier junior teams – a coming out party of sorts.”It gave me confidence that I could score a lot against good competition,” Parker said.The demanding AAU schedule this summer should pose a similar challenge.”He saw a taste of it last summer, and this summer he’ll play against some of the best players in the nation,” Ketchum said. “He’ll see how athletic these guys are, and what it takes to make it to Division I. What it comes down to is this: ‘Are you really going to put yourself through the pain that it takes to get where you want to be physically?’ If he’ll spend the time, he’s got a chance to get there.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com


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