Sharing the load

Estes, Screen a successful point guard duo for Mavs

Talk about job sharing:

Daniel Estes, the starting point guard for the Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team, has played 199 minutes in the Mavericks’ 10 games this season. Kevin Screen, the Mavs’ point guard off the bench, has played 200 minutes.

Estes averages 4.2 points per game, has 26 assists, 17 turnovers and 11 steals. Screen scores 2.7 points per game, with 18 assists, 10 turnovers and nine steals.

Estes, a 5-foot-11 sophomore from Laramie, Wyo., likes sharing the load with Screen, a 5-9 junior from Glenwood Springs.

“It alleviates the pressure on both of us,” Estes said. “We have confidence in each other. We can both be in there, we’re both pulling for each other, and we have each other’s back.”

Screen has been a starter and has come off the bench the past three years, so he and Estes give the Mavericks (7-3, 4-2 RMAC) the two-headed point-guard attack coach Jim Heaps likes.

Heaps doesn’t have a problem with either of them being on the floor at crunch time. Estes has started all 10 games this season, but there are times Heaps will just go with whichever is playing better. Screen has been on the floor at the end of several close games.

More often than not, when you look at the box score at the end of the game, the minutes are almost always evenly split. Some nights it’s 21-19, 22-18, but it’s rare that one gets significantly more minutes than the other. In seven of the Mavs’ games this season, Screen has had more playing time than Estes.

“I’m good with my role on the team, and I know what it is,” Screen said. “I try to come in and do the best I can. Starting or coming off the bench, I want to be a spark. The good thing about us, we have so much depth. Whoever’s in, we know it’s going to be the same. We’re all playing about the same amount of minutes, and it’s working out great so far.”

The two aren’t mirror images. Estes looks to score a little more than Screen, although the elder point guard is looking for his shot more. Estes is a bit more aggressive, more like the young yapping dog in your face.

Screen is quieter, a little more methodical, almost as if he’s studying the chessboard on the floor, plotting the next move.

And in their different ways, they’re getting the job done.

“If he comes in for me or vice versa, the game is going to keep going on, we’re going to keep running our stuff,” Screen said. “We have different styles of play, but it brings different strengths to the team. It helps out knowing we have each other’s back.”

Having two solid point guards has been a bonus this season because the Mavericks are making a more conscious effort to push the pace offensively.

“Coach wants me, as soon as I get that outlet pass, I’m looking up,” Estes said. “If there’s someone ahead of me, I’m throwing it to him. We’re reading it from there. They’re always telling us, if there’s a guy ahead of you and you can throw it to him, make that pass.”

And both agree having Colton Burgon running the floor is a huge advantage.

“Colton, if he’s not the most athletic big in the league, he’s one of the most athletic bigs in the league, and that makes it so much easier on the rest of us,” Estes said, grinning at the thought of the Mavericks’ 6-8 senior forward crashing through the lane for layups and dunks on the break as the defensive post players are trying to catch up.

“Colton helps big-time,” Screen said. “With a guy who can run the floor and get down there before the other big guys, it helps. He’ll get layups easy.”

After dropping their final two games of 2012 on the road at Fort Lewis and Adams State, ending their seven-game winning streak, the Mavericks want to rebound at home today against Colorado Christian (6-7, 1-4 RMAC) and Saturday against defending conference champion Colorado School of Mines (7-2, 4-1).

The players returned to campus Dec. 27 and immediately went to work with physically demanding practices designed to quickly eliminate the holiday rust and work off that extra helping of home cooking.

But after their two-hour practices, plus film sessions and weights, the rest of the day is theirs.

“A lot of us live together, so we’re all just hanging out,” Estes said. “We’re a close-knit group to begin with, but if you want to talk about some serious bonding time, this is it.”

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