Thoughts, quotations, and even some news
The high school basketball state tournaments are in their final weekend with no area teams still in the hunt for state titles.
But it doesn’t end for me until I say two more things: I can’t wait to see Grand Junction’s D.J. Wells play next year, and I’m sorry to see Olathe’s Haley Turley go.
He’s gonna be a beast
A 6-foot-7 sophomore, Wells already is operating in a man’s body and at times is playing like a man. No gangly, uncoordinated kid here. Zach Kiel, a senior for the Tigers, said Wells’ coordination was in place as a freshman, for that matter.
It’s scary to think Wells might fill out more, because there are college post players who wish they had his frame. And there will be plenty of college coaches hoping he says yes to them when they come calling in the next two years.
Wells made a lasting impression on this writer in Grand Junction’s 48-37 win over Fort Collins in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs. The Lambkins brought some serious size to the Grand Junction High School gym — two 6-6 kids, one 6-8 and one 6-5 — and their big boys blocked two of the Tigers’ first three shots.
I’m thinking, “Dang, Junction might be in trouble.” Before the first half was over, though, the shot blocker I was in awe of was Wells, who among his rejections collected an all-ball, never-left-the-guy’s-hand stuff of 6-8 Toby Van Ry.
The Tigers have two more years of that and more coming from Wells.
Embodied senior leadership
I don’t know how tall Turley is. Her height wasn’t listed on the team’s roster. What I do know is she was a 5-foot-whatever flurry of energy, the blizzard you dare not drive through on defense and an I’ll-get-the-ball-in-the-basket-somehow bundle of determination on offense.
It was clear her specialty was the back-court steal and footrace to the basket for a layup. Pretty stuff. And she’d drive to the basket welcoming a foul, because she was one of the best free-throw shooters in the state. She made 17 of 18 free throws in two district tourney games and sank 79 percent of her 182 attempts for the season.
Her will to win was on display in a 3A district tournament loss to Moffat County in which her actions said she was a senior who was not losing a third time to the Bulldogs without coating the Palisade High School floor with her sweat. It was almost enough, but the Pirates bowed 46-41.
Olathe coach Paul Althaus said his team surprised some people by going 18-6 this year despite losing several star players to graduation after the previous successful season. Turley, he said, accepted the challenge of raising her play and leading a young team.
“She really stepped up and carried us this year,” Althaus said. “I just love her drive and desire and the way she goes about her business. She’s a kid I’m going to miss a lot and not just because of her basketball. She’s just a great kid, great personality.”
Joe Ramunno’s hiring this week as Palisade’s football coach, where he coached four teams to state titles in the 1990s, led to a notebook-filling interview. Good stuff, all of it.
Some of his material comes from others, though. When saying you have to have good players to be successful, he said a friend of his likes to say: “I’ve never seen a mule win the Kentucky Derby.”
■ Ramunno also has been working for the Fuller family — Larry, Marti and Mike — at their East Orchard Mesa orchard since resigning as the head football coach at Colorado Mesa University in November 2011.
He now can taste darn near any peach and tell you what variety it is.
“I can tell you this,” Ramunno said. “I ate more peaches than anybody in this valley. I was the tester, man.”
But the Fullers, he said, kept him in check: “Man, they’d tell me: You be careful now, you’ve eaten quite a bit.”
■ In the annals of high praise, little tops what new Central head football coach Shawn Marsh heaped on Ramunno when discussing Ramunno’s return to Palisade.
Marsh, who can sing Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” and insert all of the Grand Valley’s high schools in place of city names, was an assistant coach for Ramunno at Palisade as well as a couple of times at Colorado Mesa.
“I think the world of Joe,” Marsh said. “I think he’s one of the greatest people there are in the world.”
That said, guess who Central opens its football season against this fall? Palisade.
Ramunno is looking to get back into Palisade High School as a teacher. He said he has applied for an open position in construction technology. You know, what schools once called shop class, or industrial arts.
Nothing against orchard work. Ramunno said he loves working for the Fullers, adding, “Fuller Orchard saved me because it just showed a whole new light to everything that’s out there and the importance of good people who work hard. I’ve learned so much on that orchard.”
But being a teacher in the school where you coach is invaluable.
“That’s really important that you have as many coaches in the building as you possibly can,” Ramunno said.
■ Montrose all-around athlete Kala Keltz has signed a letter of intent to play women’s golf at the University of Northern Colorado.
■ Speaking of all-around athletes whose best sport is golf, Rifle senior Taylor Walters hasn’t signed yet, but according to her father, Roger Walters, she plans to play golf for Colorado Mesa.