Basalt boys basketball team starts fresh |

Basalt boys basketball team starts fresh

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

BASALT ” Jon Pettit is up for the challenge. He’s certain his players are, too.

The Ohio native, Basalt’s third head boys basketball coach in as many years, was a Longhorns assistant and JV coach one year ago. Now, he’ll slide down the bench and take his shot at resurrecting a program fresh off a largely forgettable 2008 campaign.

The task will be difficult, especially in a 3A Western Slope that looks to be as balanced as ever. Still, Pettit insists that he’s in the perfect situation.

“All these kids have great work ethic and they want to learn,” added Pettit, who volunteered with the Glenwood Springs High School boys program before joining the Basalt staff. “They’re real easy to coach. … You couldn’t ask for a better gig.”

Pettit will have work to do in his first varsity head coaching job. He inherits a Basalt team that opened with nine straight losses in 2008. The young Longhorns lost each of their first six by 35 or more points.

While it was decidedly more competitive during the latter ” and weaker ” portion of its schedule, Basalt finished near the bottom of the Slope with just four wins. Against the top three teams in the league ” Aspen, Roaring Fork and Gunnison ” The Longhorns were outscored, 392-230.

“It was disappointing,” senior guard Omar Lopez said. “I felt like the team had a lot of potential. We just weren’t there every night. I don’t think the intensity was always there.”

Basalt’s youth was exposed last season. Just two players on the roster ” Connor Rakowski and Chaz Capobianco ” had prior varsity experience. Consequently, the Longhorns were turnover prone and struggled to compete on a consistent basis.

Rakowski, an all-conference selection and the team’s leading scorer, and Capobianco have graduated. The Longhorns were dealt another blow when key contributor Taylor Foreman-Niko recently informed Pettit he wouldn’t be playing this year ” “He said his heart’s not in it, and I trust that’s the case,” the coach said.

“They’re going to be hard to replace,” Lopez said. “It just means we’re all going to have to step up. … I know I’ve been in some tough situations before.”

Both Lopez and Pettit believe the pieces are in place to do just that. While three starters are gone, seniors Lopez, Scott Trantow and Dean Unglert all played extensively a year ago.

Last year’s struggles also gave the program’s talented sophomore class much-needed varsity experience. Pettit expects the group, now juniors, to step in and contribute right away.

“I see the potential,” Lopez added. “We have a lot of talent here.”

Where they’ll end up is anyone’s guess. While reigning league-champion Aspen suffered key losses this offseason ” Cory Parker, 3A’s Mr. Basketball, and inside force Michael Taylor, among others ” the league welcomes Grand Valley ” last year’s top seed in the 2A Great 8 ” to the fray this winter. The Cardinals routed the Longhorns, 75-49, last season.

“Hopefully we can be competitive and vie for a league title. … our goals are the same as everyone else’s,” Pettit said. “We want to give ourselves a chance to win every game. And if we improve every week, who knows?”

Lopez’s objective is much more modest: Supplant last year’s win total. To do that and more, he said Basalt will need a increased commitment to defense.

Pettit said his team’s work ethic and stamina will help the Longhorns distinguish themselves. To that end, his coaching staff includes Jordan Williams, a strength and conditioning coach.

“The reason they’ll be successful is because they’re great kids and they work hard,” Pettit said. “They know what it feels like to lose. They understand what it takes and where they need to get to.”

Basalt opens the regular season in the four-team tournament in Aspen on Dec. 5 and 6. Pettit hopes that weekend will be the start of something special.

“It’s a work in progress, but we’re all excited,” he added. “We look at the girls and the year they had. Maybe we can build off their success and put Basalt back on the map.”

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