No sophomore slump for Aspen forward
In the seven-team Western Slope conference, with each team having an average roster of 12, it’s difficult for players to garner postseason recognition – let alone a second-year player.Unless you’re Aspen’s Cory Parker. The sophomore left such a strong impression on opposing coaches that they selected him to the league’s first team. He joins Christian Tena of Roaring Fork, Ben Pollock of Basalt, Newel Beauchamp of Hotchkiss and Gunnison’s Chris Garcia – all seniors.Basalt senior big man Darren Duroux, who averaged 13.5 points per game to compliment Pollock’s 14 points and nearly three assists, was a second-team selection; Basalt junior Duncan McDaniel and senior J.P. Fitzpatrick, as well as Skiers senior captains Luke Gosda and Tucker Helmus, were honorable mention selections.On the girls side Basalt senior Lindsey Soucie and junior Katy Mulcahy were first-team selections and Aspen senior Brittany Fortier made second team; Longhorns sophomore Dayne Toney and senior Allison Brumet, along with Skiers senior point guard Carly Magill, earned honorable mention.
“I’ve been here for eight years and I don’t recall anyone getting his kind of recognition so early,” Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum said. “The kid just turned 16. I was a little bit surprised he was named one of the top four players in the league, but the other coaches kept saying, ‘Boy, he’s gonna be good.'”Parker, a 6-foot-5 forward, filled up the stat sheet in his 21 games for the Skiers (6-6 league, 10-13 overall). He averaged 14 points and six rebounds per contest – both team highs. He pitched in an average of one block and one steal each game, and compiled 34 assists.Parker and teammates Gosda and Helmus, who each averaged close to 10 points per game, were the driving force behind a season in which Aspen doubled its conference regular season win total. Gosda was Aspen’s calming force in the backcourt and showcased his knack for late-game heroics on multiple occasions. His 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining against rival Basalt on Feb. 7 clinched a win and a series split.Helmus, in addition to being one of the team’s consistent scorers, averaged more than three assists and three rebounds per game.
“Those three kids all deserve the recognition they got. They earned it,” Ketchum said. “It’s a tribute to the hardest workers on our team. We’re gonna miss our seniors, but Cory is a rising star in this league.”Parker was one of the state’s top six freshman in 2004 and is a member of the Colorado Chaos, a Denver-based AAU team, Ketchum said. Ketchum says Parker’s combination of touch from outside, ability to handle the ball like a point guard and his array of post moves will draw the attention of college recruiters. Kevin Pritchard, director of player personnel for the NBA’s Portland TrailBlazers, who helps Ketchum run the Aspen Basketball Academy, told the Skiers coach Parker has Division I potential. If he improves his strength and foot speed, scouts may find Parker difficult to overlook. “Some coaches said he’s already a lock for player of the year next year,” Ketchum said. “I told them it’s not about how good he is now, but how much he improves before next season.
“He’s level-headed and that’s what’s impressive,” Ketchum added. “He has great work ethic and is already starting to demonstrate that he can be phenomenal.”Despite the fact that the majority of his team is young and lacks varsity experience, Ketchum can do nothing but smile these days. With Parker on his sideline for two more seasons, it’s easy to see why.”He wants to be the best in Colorado,” Ketchum said. “He has a long way to go, but his potential is tremendous. It should be a great year, and I’m very excited for him.”
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Aspen Mountain opened for the season on Wednesday, a day earlier than originally planned. Top-to-bottom snowmaking, a solid recent storm and well-behaved guests made for a great experience despite all of the extra precautions.