Prep hoops teams ready for tip-off

Robinson the key returnee for Tigers

D.J. Wells will be the main man in the paint this season for the Grand Junction Tigers. The 6-foot-9 sophomore is a good rebounder.


Key games

Dec. 5 — ThunderRidge Tournament: vs. No. 5 Cherokee Trail at Heritage High School, 5:30 p.m.

Dec. 21 — vs. Adams City, 7 p.m.

Jan. 11 — at No. 11 Legend, 7 p.m.

Jan. 25 — vs. Durango, 7 p.m.

Feb. 22 — vs. Fruita Monument, 7 p.m.

A majority of area boys basketball coaches think Broderick Robinson is one of the best guards on the Western Slope, and the junior whose dribbles return like a yo-yo has only been honing his shot in the offseason.

But where does Robinson rank among the state’s best guards, and can he help lead the Tigers to a Southwestern League title?

One thing’s for sure: Robinson, a 5-foot-10 point guard, could have the area’s best ball-handling skills, and his jump shot is precise enough to keep defenders close enough for Robinson to flash his speed.

“He’s a basketball player,” Tigers coach Dutch Johnson said. “He’s a gym rat. He’s kind of our leader, but we’ve got other good kids.”

Robinson will be helping them out. Grand Junction lost some key seniors, including point guard Jeff Hansen, Justin Whiting (6.5 points per game, 27 of 60 on 3-pointers), Sean Rubalcaba (5 points per game), Garrett Harrison (6 points per game) and first-team all-SWL player Casey Burns (11 points per game).

But Robinson returns to keep Grand Junction solid at guard, and 6-foot-9 sophomore D.J. Wells, who moves well for his size and has a knack for finding rebounds, will anchor the Tigers’ paint play.

Kyler Rose, who in football was an all-conference first-team offensive lineman and defensive end, has lost 30 pounds since last season’s basketball season, Johnson said, and the 6-foot-2 forward could be a steady defender and rebounder.

Also returning is 6-foot senior Zach Kiel.

“He started the last two years and has been a big contributor for us,” Johnson said. “What’s nice about him is he’ll go inside and outside.”

Johnson plans to use Robinson as the anchor of the Tigers’ offense, driving and dishing the ball to a handful of outside shooters — Henry Carmichael, Greg Eccher, a state-qualifier in cross country who Johnson said is a capable shooter and, of course, will run all day long, Trenton Soriano, a junior, and newcomer Kason Clutter.

But the shooters, of course, will not have space unless Wells and Rose become threats down low.

“He’s put on a few inches,” Johnson said of Wells. “He’s a real talented sophomore. We’ve just got to get him to stop shying away from contact and be physical. He moves so well, has great hands and he can finish. He can shoot from about 10 feet out.”

As a freshman, Wells played in seven games and averaged three points and two rebounds.

“What’s good is as a freshman, there were games he didn’t play much and he was angry,” Johnson said, “and I liked it. He wants to be on the floor, and as a 15-year-old you’ve got to like that.”

Johnson said the Tigers’ biggest loss was Burns, who could shoot the 3 as well as ignite momentum with the type of dunk he became known for, the two-handed stuff with a brief rim swing.

But the Tigers gain players from a junior varsity that went 17-1, losing only its opener to Smoky Hill.

“And a lot of those kids have gotten a lot better,” Johnson said.

Plus, they’ll have Robinson to shadow. When asked how Robinson ranks among the best guards in the state, Johnson referenced two standout guards in Robinson’s junior class: Dominique Collier of Denver East (19.1 points per game last season) and Josh Perkins of Regis Jesuit (18.6 points per game).

“You take those two out of the mix,” Johnson said, “and he’s right up there with the best guards in Colorado.”


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