Coal Ridge’s Kevin DiMarco signs with Chadron State for basketball
NEW CASTLE — Coal Ridge senior Kevin DiMarco just wants to focus on basketball.
After signing his National Letter of Intent with Nebraska’s Chadron State College Wednesday in front of family, friends and teammates inside Coal Ridge High School, he can now do that without worrying about the recruiting process.
“It feels amazing to be able to do this,” DiMarco said. “It was really stressful with the coaches constantly reaching out. Picking one was really hard, but all the stress is now gone and I can just play basketball my senior year without any worries about college. Since freshman year I wanted to sign before my senior year started, so to be able to do that is big.”
The 6-foot-7 senior center is one of the top returning players on the Western Slope and sits 377 points away from 1,000 for his career, as well as 74 rebounds away from 500. Last year, DiMarco averaged 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game, helping the Titans go 21-3 (9-0 3A Western Slope League). Coal Ridge won the 3A district tournament to close the regular season at Grand Junction Central, and then reached the second round of the 3A regional playoff bracket before losing to Manual, 80-77.
Back for his senior season, DiMarco is one of the focal points of Coal Ridge’s vaunted attack under head coach Paul Harvey. The long, lanky center can not only get buckets in the paint, but step out from beyond the arc and drain 3-pointers, fitting into the new-age stretch-5 role in basketball.
“I saw him play in junior high and I could tell then that he was something special,” Harvey said. “He came in as a freshman and really put in the work and developed his game. He improved his athleticism and worked on his strength training, so seeing him sign today is really neat. He had some god-given ability as well, which is nice. We did something today that I’ve never done here either: we had the whole team come into the gym to watch him sign so that they could see that hard work pays off.”
That versatility offensively, as well as his size and length defensively, led to the interest from Chadron State College head coach Houston Reed, an Olathe native.
“I really love coach Reed,” DiMarco said. “With him being from the Western Slope, I think we both connected really well. When I went on the visit (in September), I fell in love with the campus, and I connected well with the current players. I like that the campus isn’t too big, but also isn’t too small. It’s right in the middle and it fits me well.”
According to DiMarco, the Eagles were the first program to really jump on him as a prospect, which led to his first official visit in September. Aside from Chadron State College, Colorado Mesa University, Metro State University and Pacific University (Forest Grove, Oregon) were the other schools interested in DiMarco.
The talented senior joins a program that struggled last season in Reed’s second year, going 3-25 (1-21 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference). That said, Reed had similar struggles at Otero Junior College in La Junta before going on an impressive run in his final five years, posting a 117-46 mark over that span.
During that successful five-year stretch, the Rattlers won the highly competitive NJCAA Region IX Tournament in 2012, made a repeat appearance in the title game in 2013, and most recently won the Region IX South Division in 2015-16 with a 15-1 conference record. Reed was voted the Region IX Coach of the Year in both 2012 and 2016.
DiMarco said Reed and the Eagles’ staff will utilize him as the prototypical stretch-5.
“That’s how they envision using me,” DiMarco said. “I’m willing to do whatever it is that they ask of me.”
“Chadron’s a really tough program,” Harvey said. “Coach Reed is a heck of a guy; he’s down to earth. Kevin’s going to thrive. He’s going to surprise some people; he’s been a bit overlooked, but he’s going to do well for Chadron.”
Outside of basketball, DiMarco plans on majoring in business and marketing with hopes of becoming a real estate agent after college.
The Titans open the season Nov. 30 in Carbondale at the Brenda Patch Tournament at Roaring Fork High School against the Lutheran Lions at 4 p.m.
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The Aspen High School ski team wrapped up its short and sweet regular season Friday with home races at Highlands. The Skiers hosted both a slalom and giant slalom on Thunderbowl, with an AHS athlete taking three of the wins.