Rigsby’s addition adds firepower to Fruita offense

Gunner Rigsby, 25, averaged 19 points per game last season for Grand Valley High School. Rigsby moved to Fruita in the summer and brings his offensive game to the Wildcats, who hope to use Rigsby’s ability to score and create opportunities for his teammates to good advantage.



Trey Morrill is an athletic 6-foot-6 forward who can drive and shoot from the outside. Fruita Monument is counting on the junior to be a leader.



QUICKREAD

FRUITA MONUMENT WILDCATS

Coach: Billy Dreher, fifth season, 37-58.

Last season: 13-11, lost to Fort Collins in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.

Key returners: Jake Brizzolara, sr., G, 10.3 PPG, 1.3 APG; Trey Morrill, jr., F, 8.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 40 steals, 12 blocks; Cade Richardson 2.2 PPG, 3.8 APG, 35 steals.

Key newcomers: Gunner Rigsby, sr., G, 19 PPG, 3.8 APG, 52 steals (at Grand Valley High School); Daren Davison, jr., G; Marcus Lee, soph., F.



Things are a little different for Gunner Rigsby now that he’s at Fruita Monument High School.

Rigsby moved from Parachute with his family and began playing for the Wildcats boys basketball team over the summer. Fruita Monument coach Billy Dreher had to strike a balance.

Rigsby is an athletically gifted point guard who averaged 19 points per game in Grand Valley’s run-and-gun scheme. The Cardinals’ offense — which runs at a frenetic pace and features players running in transition well before a defensive rebound is pulled down — works for a small school. It led them to a deep run in the Class 3A playoffs.

At the 5A level, Fruita Monument isn’t going to out-run the top teams in the classification. Offensive sets and high-percentage shots become even more important if the Wildcats make the playoffs.

Dreher said he’s stressed the importance of structured offense to Rigsby, but doesn’t want to take away the explosive speed that made Rigsby one of the top scorers in 3A. The coach said it’s a tough balancing act and it’s hard to tell exactly how Rigsby will jell with teammates until the season tips off. Since Rigsby’s move to the valley was deemed by the Colorado High School Activities Association to be a legitimate, non-athletically motivated move, he is immediately eligible for varsity competition.

The senior has given Dreher reasons to be confident.

“We got him during the summer and we don’t run as many sets during that time, so that helped him get comfortable,” Dreher said. “We’ll run some of the same stuff we ran last year and we’ve got some new things in for him and other people so we can spread the floor a little more, depending on the lineup we have. He knows and he has to understand that his No. 1 role is to get us into our offense and he’s going to come out if he doesn’t do that.

“At the same time, we’re going to get him his looks and get him some opportunities where he can prove how great he is at penetrating and kicking because we have some kids who can shoot it. We’ll get him plenty of opportunities where he can score, too.”

Spreading the floor will be important for the Wildcats this season after losing 6-foot-8 Javen Gumber to graduation. The big man, now at the Air Force Academy, was athletic, but Fruita’s offensive sets focused on getting him the ball down low.

This season, senior guard Jake Brizzolara is the top returning scorer, averaging 10.3 points per game. He provides a solid outside jumper, even though Dreher said he wants Brizzolara to be more consistent this season.

“Last year there’d be nights where he’d score 24 points and then he’d score six points the next game,” Dreher said. “We’re looking for him to even that out a little bit this year.”

Junior forward Trey Morrill provides height, with a lanky, 6-6 frame. He’s athletic, can drive to the rim and has a jumper. A highly touted basketball prospect since his freshman year, Morrill has always had pressure put on him. But this is the first year where he’s been thrust into a leadership role as one of three captains.

Morrill said his teammates made the transition easy.

“I’ve adjusted well and everybody else has adjusted well to it,” Morrill said. “It’s not just me. Gunner has stepped up. Cade Rich(ardson) has stepped up, Brizz has stepped up. All of these guys have stepped up and that’s made my job a lot easier.”

Rigsby, for his part, said Dreher and the team have welcomed him to the program.

“Coach Dreher has been helping me a lot with the plays and sets and we’ve been running those through a lot,” Rigsby said. “But he told me to play my game, too, within the sets of course. It hasn’t been too bad.

“(The players) all took me in right away. The summer we didn’t have much chemistry, but now we’re actually starting to jell and we’re playing together a lot more. We know where each other is going to be on the court.”


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