On the Mark: Mesa State’s Markham makes coaches look good

Aaron Markham played for one of the most successful Roaring Fork High School boys basketball programs in history, yet, he didn’t get many college scholarship offers.

He did get an offer to play at Mesa State College and is making coaches Jim Heaps and Andy Shantz look good.

“Coming out of high school, there were not a lot of people recruiting me,” Markham said. “Coach (Andy) Shantz and (Jim) Heaps saw something in me and believed in me. I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

Now, the senior point guard is orchestrating a Mesa team to its best start in Heaps’ 14 years.

The 21st-ranked Mavericks (12-1, 6-0 RMAC) look to make more history this weekend when they host the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (4-9, 2-3 RMAC) at 8 p.m. Saturday at Brownson Arena. If Mesa defeats the Mountain Lions, Mesa will go undefeated against the RMAC East Division, something West Division teams rarely accomplish.

“UCCS plays so hard and well-coached,” Heaps said. “It’s definitely a team you’ve got to come ready to play. We’ve got to defend, rebound and execute on offense. They scare me with their transition game. They run the floor really well. They are not a big team, but comparable to us. They want to score a lot of points. They want to go up and down the floor.”

The Mavericks would rather slow it down, use the shot clock and take an open, high-percentage shot and then rely on Markham to get them in the offense.

Markham is averaging nearly two assists to one turnover per game and is shooting a team-best 59.5 percent from the floor.

“You talk about the perfect definition of a point guard; he never looks to shoot and makes every shot he takes,” Heaps said. “That’s Aaron. He knows it’s not his role to shoot early in a possession, but you’ve got to guard him. He knocks down shots. He finishes well for his size and his jumping ability. His success this year is a direct result of him being coachable. He understands and knows what we’re trying to do offensively better than everybody out there including me. I don’t have to say anything to him. He’s really had a nice year, I think.”

In this day and age of players wanting to be the scorer, Markham has been more than happy to take a backseat, play defense and watch others score.

“I’ve always been told I’m a pass-first point guard,” Markham said. “I just want to win, whatever coach wants me to do, if it’s playing defense, passing the ball or knocking down shots. He’s the coach, I’m the player. I really respect that relationship. My grandpa’s a coach, my dad’s a coach. In the end, you’re not going to remember how many points you averaged. It’s going to be, did you win championships.”

Right now, Markham has the Mavericks heading in the right direction.

Women

Mesa’s all-time winningest women’s basketball coach, Steve Kirkham, makes his first return courtside to Brownson Arena when he leads the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs against the Mavericks at 6 p.m. Saturday.

The gym, though, will have a different look since he last coached the Mavericks in 2004. Brownson Arena has new lights, a fresh coat of paint, seatbacks on the West side and a new floor.

“I already thanked (Athletic Director) Butch (Miller) for making it look different,” Kirkham said. “It’s going to be tough. That was a special place for me and my family for 16 years. I never thought I would do this (coach again). It’s going to be tough. I’m sure it will be good atmosphere.”

Kirkham, who is the UCCS athletic director, is serving as the school’s interim women’s basketball coach.

The Mountain Lions (4-9, 0-5 RMAC), who play tonight at Western State, are looking to break an 11-game RMAC losing streak.

Mesa State (2-9, 1-5 RMAC) is looking to end a four-game losing streak dating to December.

“We don’t match up well with them at all in the post,” Mesa coach Roger Walters said. “They have three big kids that are really athletic. Everything they do goes through their post kids and they are very talented. We’ll struggle matching up with them size-wise. They’ll struggle with us, hopefully, on the offensive end. We’re going to try to shoot more from the perimeter and free things up underneath that way.”


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