Fruita standouts have high hopes for boys; girls seek consistency

Alex Mende returns as a hard worker who wants to keep Fruita Monument competitive.

Mary McGee is a force inside and is passionate about the game of basketball. She expects the Wildcats to finish above .500 this season.


Fruita Monument has a few aces up its sleeve for the upcoming boys basketball season.

With six seniors departed, the Wildcats will have to rely on some new faces this winter. But for high school fans in the valley, these faces will actually look pretty familiar.

Football standouts Brett Nankervis and Scott Miller as well as all-league baseball player Rex Clemons will all play a new role for the Wildcats on the court. Nankervis and Clemons saw limited action last season. Miller is joining the basketball team for his senior season and bringing his 6-foot-5 frame to the mix.

Wildcats coach Dave Fox said the three bring a lot of versatility to the court.

“Miller and Nankervis are both great athletes and while basketball is probably their second sport, we ask them to contribute and give us some leadership,” Fox said. “Clemons is a really good baseball player but he brings a lot of athleticism as well as the height you need out on the court.”

The dual sport players will bring a unique dynamic to the ’Cats, but a group of basketball-only players will be the nucleus, beginning with the Wildcats’ returning all-Southwestern League player, Alex Mende. The 6-foot-1 Mende, along with Mike Perry and Chance
Muller, concentrate on basketball and Fox said they’ll be the players the team looks to when it opens the season Dec. 4 in the Warrior Challenge at Central High School.

“Mende, Perry and Muller have really put a lot of time into basketball and we are counting on them,” Fox said. “But we feel like we have some young kids that will give us some good basketball this season.”

Mende filled in some blanks about himself and the rest of the Wildcats:

Hardworking best describes me as a player.

“That is how I have always been. I try to do the best I can with every drill and always strive to be first.”

Inside game is my best asset on the court.

“That is where I have been for four years, so I always work at it.”

Hard is how I trained in the offseason.

“We worked out this whole summer and fall, keeping in that basketball mentality. We hit the weights and worked a lot on shooting.”

Winning is my favorite part of the game.

“It is all about the love of the game and winning.”

Chemistry is the most important asset of this team.

“This is the third year for Coach Fox, so everyone knows his system and what is going on. We are really well-rounded and nobody thinks they are better than anyone else.”

15 games I expect Fruita Monument to win.

“I have been anxious for basketball to start because we have been working all summer for it. I have been looking forward to this year for a long time.”


Dan Schmalz is in his second year as the Wildcats’ girls coach and his expectations are rising.

“We want to keep building on what the end of the season brought us last year,” Schmalz said. “This year I have had a summer with them and I know their strengths and weaknesses.”

The Wildcats went 7-14 last year but still were able to squeeze into the Class 5A playoffs, losing in the first round to Columbine.

Although the season ended on a positive note, Fruita had difficulty finding consistency despite having seven seniors on the team.

The team is younger this year, but Schmalz is positive about what is coming back, starting with the returning all-SWL player Mary McGee.

“She is a force inside and a super-athletic player that played a ton for us last year,” Schmalz said.

In addition to McGee, juniors Katie Lewis and Sarah Hensley return with varsity experience and 5-7 senior Courtney Smith returns
after missing last season with a injury. Brooke Janowitz is another senior who will help on the defensive end when the Wildcats begin their season Dec. 3 against Palisade.

McGee filled in the blanks about herself and the rest of the Fruita Monument girls team.

Passionate best describes me as a player.

“I really care about working hard and improving for myself and this team, plus I am very competitive. I don’t like to lose.”

Rebounding is my best asset on the court.

“When I was little, I was taller than everyone else, but now I have to work a little bit more for it.”

Other sports is how I trained in the offseason.

“I do track and volleyball so I am always active.”

My teammates are my favorite part of the game.

“They are a lot of fun and we work really well together and make practice enjoyable.”

Defense is the most important asset of this team.

“We are not a very big team so defense will have to start it all for us.”

Above .500 is how I expect Fruita Monument to finish.

“I think we will be pretty good.”


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