Drive for five
Reloaded Tigers looking to win 5th straight SWL title
Make it five?
The Grand Junction High School boys basketball team secured its fourth consecutive Southwestern League title last season and made yet another Class 5A playoff appearance.
Much like last season, the 2016-17 Tigers are reloading after losing numerous seniors to graduation. The top five scorers for Grand Junction last season all graduated, along with a versatile defender who came off the bench. Last season Grand Junction coach Isaac Madison was looking to replace his top four scorers from the previous year.
Young players who had limited varsity minutes, but who had played in the lower levels of Grand Junction’s program, lifted the Tigers to a league title last year.
This year, a new crop of guards is looking to repeat those results.
The Tigers are led by Andrew Hansen this season, a varsity contributor since his sophomore year. Hansen can guard almost any player on the floor and was used as a defensive game changer last season as others embraced scoring roles.
Hansen will likely be part of the offensive equation, Madison said, but added that it’s unclear this early in the season who’s the offensive focal point or if it will be scoring by committee.
“Andrew’s never really been a scoring guy and I don’t know that it’s ever really been his primary goal,” Madison said. “I don’t know at the 5A level that there are a lot of point guards that guard the other team’s best player, whether he’s a point guard, a forward or a big. Andrew guards all five positions for us, depending on the matchup, and a lot of that will fall on his shoulders again this year.”
Hansen averaged 4.3 points per game last season, making him the top returning scorer for the Tigers. The three-sport athlete joins Trevor Olkowski, a University of Colorado-bound golfer with a long 3-point shot, as a returning player with some varsity experience.
Derek Shaver, a sophomore and another three-sport athlete, will serve as Grand Junction’s primary big man. At 6-foot-4, Madison said Shaver will likely rely on back-side help on defense and will have to front opposing post players. Still, he added that Shaver’s athleticism is an asset and he expects a lot from the young player.
Hansen said athleticism is one of the team’s biggest strengths.
“If you look around, we don’t really have as much size as we’ve had in the past,” Hansen said. “Our athleticism is going to be important and we really do have a lot of hard workers out here that will help us during the season.”
Also joining the rotation is Drew Derrieux, a long and athletic guard who had limited varsity experience last season. He’s the younger brother of Jamie Derrieux, a former basketball standout at Grand Junction and the University of Northern Colorado.
Derrieux said senior leadership will help the Tigers moving forward this season, especially with a tough nonleague schedule. Grand Junction plays at the Tip-Off Classic and the Mullen Holiday Invitational, featuring some of the best teams in Colorado.
“I think from a leadership standpoint we hold everybody accountable,” Derrieux said. “We need to practice well because we have a really tough schedule this year with Regis, maybe Valor, Chaparral. We have to come into practice every day knowing that we’re getting better.”
Madison said the league schedule, as usual, is tough.
“It’s hard to say where we’re at,” Madison said. “But out here, the only way to make sure you get into the playoffs is to win the league. That’s obviously a preseason goal and that’s something we’re going to work hard at. At the same time, when you’ve had success and won the league four years in a row, you’re going to get everybody’s best shot every single night. There aren’t any easy games and it’s hard to say how it will shake out.”