Column: Former Aspen Coach K back in the game |

Column: Former Aspen Coach K back in the game

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Aspen Times Sports Editor Dale Strode
Nick Massaro Jr. / Special to The Aspen Times |

Steve Ketchum is up to his turtleneck in basketball.

Shocker, right?

The longtime coach of the Aspen High School boys basketball team, who took a year away from prep basketball, is back in the gym, back in the huddle, back on the sidelines and — guess what — back in the win column.

Ketchum, after a 17-year run that elevated Aspen basketball into the elite of Class 3A in Colorado, took over the Ponderosa High School boys program in the Denver suburb of Parker.

Barely a month into the season, Ketchum and the Class 4A Ponderosa Mustangs are 5-1. And they’re coming to the Roaring Fork Valley this week.

“Oh yes, we’re looking forward to the game. It’ll be a bit of a homecoming for me,” Ketchum said of Ponderosa’s game Saturday at Glenwood Springs High School. “I think I’ll have some friends come out to watch.”

Ketchum and his athletic director negotiated a quick addition of Glenwood Springs to the Ponderosa schedule when the Mustangs had a previously scheduled game canceled.

All it took was a bit of basketball serendipity.

Ketchum was substitute teaching at Glenwood Springs High School late last year.

“I ran into Cory (Hitchcock),” Ketchum said of the Glenwood Springs boys head coach and a former standout player for Ketchum at Aspen High School. “I said we’re looking for a game.”

Hitchcock responded that the Demons also were looking for a game.

One plus one equals Saturday’s game in Glenwood — 3 p.m. tip.

“I love Cory. He’s building a great program,” Ketchum said, adding that Hitchcock has served as a coach in Ketchum’s Aspen Basketball Academy.

“We’re going to make a trip out of it,” Ketchum said.

“They never have an overnight trip,” Ketchum said because the majority of Ponderosa’s games are played along the cozy confines of the Front Range. “So, we’re going to come up the night before. Make it a trip.”

Ketchum said his current team is responding with a quick 5-1 start, including wins over Longmont Skyline, Fort Collins Poudre and Gateway.

But, he said, as a small 4A school (1,300 students) in a big 4A-5A league, the Mustangs have a brutal schedule ahead — ThunderRidge, Highlands Ranch, Regis Jesuit, Heritage, Castle View, Chaparral, Douglas County and Legend.

No wonder a trip to the Western Slope looks so good.

Oh yes, Ponderosa also will play Pueblo Central this year. That’s the same Pueblo Central that features Michael Ranson, who scored 59 points in a game two weeks ago, including the game-winning layup.

“They have two D-I guards. One’s going to Air Force,” Ketchum said with the excitement of a first-year coach devising a game plan for a big game.

But this is like his 30th season as a high school basketall coach.

“And you know, the talent down here is off the charts,” Ketchum said, extending the compliment to the Front Range officials. “At the varsity level, it’s really good officiating.”

“Really, it’s a bunch of great kids,” Ketchum said of his new Mustangs. “Wonderful parents.”

And two more players due back soon from injuries.


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