Sharing the load
Parker, Rigsby give Cardinals 1-2 punch
PARACHUTE — Picking things up a notch in the scorer’s column this season was something John Parker and Gunner Rigsby were comfortable doing.
The Grand Valley High School boys basketball players already were used to scoring. The Cardinals’ average of 69.5 points per game in 2014-15 ranked second in Class 3A and eighth among all Colorado classifications, and Parker and Rigsby were ranked second and third, respectively, on the team in scoring behind one of the classification’s leading scorers in Sam Parker.
This season, the two have increased their production and then some in the absence of Sam Parker, who graduated and took his 22.7-points-per-game average with him.
Through Saturday, John Parker and Rigsby have combined to average 44.3 points per game, with Parker’s 22.7 points per game leading the way. What’s more, the Cardinals are the only boys basketball team in Colorado with two players averaging 20 points per game or more, according to statistics posted on MaxPreps.com.
With that, Parker, a senior, and Rigsby, a junior, have become a 1-2 scoring punch that’s hard to stop.
“The great thing is that there’ll be games where I’ll have 11 points in a quarter and, after someone focuses on me, it opens things up for John,” Rigsby said. “Either one of us can score whenever we need to.”
They certainly have this season, improving on the stellar seasons they put together during the Cardinals’ run to the Sweet 16 round of the 3A state playoffs last year. Parker averaged 16.4 points to go with Rigsby’s 11.2 points per game.
Despite the loss of Sam Parker’s production, the Cardinals retained their up-tempo style of offense.
Cardinals coach Scott Parker, the father of Sam and John, said he challenged Rigsby and his son John to take steps to improve their scoring production while playing AAU basketball in the summer.
Both players took that to heart.
Rigsby, a point guard, added a weight-room routine to his AAU game schedule to help improve his quickness and ball-handling ability.
John Parker’s routine was similar but, unlike the 5-foot-10 Rigsby, he had a summertime growth spurt that coach Parker said puts his son’s height close to 6-4.
“We knew at the beginning of the season what our roles were going to be,” said John Parker, whose 36 3-point field goals through 11 games is second among 3A players. “We both knew we weren’t going to be doing anything that wasn’t natural to us.”
To increase that scoring, especially in half-court sets, Parker and Rigsby have improved their ability to drive to the hoop and shoot off the dribble while not shying away from taking shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
Parker, however, is well on his way to surpassing the 53 3s he hit in 24 games a season ago, and he’s getting plenty of second-chance buckets, thanks in part to his 10.2 rebounds per game.
Rigsby is making 3-pointers at a lower rate than last season — 31 percent of his 78 field goals are 3-pointers this year compared to 36 percent in 2014-15 — but he remains on pace to hit more than the 39 3-pointers he made last season.
Cardinals post player Tanner Magee has played a part in their success, too. The 6-5 senior is averaging 11.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, and his presence in the paint creates another scoring threat Grand Valley’s opponents have to focus on.
And when Grand Valley’s opponents start focusing on Magee, even more scoring chances open for Rigsby and Parker.
“Tanner has a really good inside game, and his abilities have helped (Parker and Rigsby) out a ton,” Scott Parker said. “Even he’s started to stretch the floor a little bit, and before you know it, either Johnny or Gunner are left open. That makes us hard for people to defend.”
The Cardinals are hoping that kind of team production continues in their hopes of not only winning the 3A Western Slope League title, but advancing to the 3A state championships for the first time since moving to the classification after the 2007-08 campaign — the Cardinals’ last season in Class 2A.
“Almost all of the core kids who played in that district and regional tournament are back this year, and ... they know we could have played better in both,” Scott Parker said. “I like where we’re at, though. Everyone has shown a willingness to get better.”