Entering SWL play, GJ boys playing well
With only one week until league contests begin for prep basketball teams, the Grand Junction High School boys basketball team has emerged as the far-and-away favorite in the Southwestern League.
But after a 7-0 start, the Tigers limped into Christmas with close losses to Sand Creek, which is ranked fourth in Class 4A, and Bear Creek.
On Tuesday, the Tigers cruised past Uintah (Utah) High School to get back on the winning track, and now they face a challenging Legend squad Saturday before starting SWL play on the road against Montrose. “It’s great to get a good-caliber team before heading into league play,” Johnson said. “I also like that we’re starting league play at Montrose because they’re hot right now, and it’s one of the tougher places to play in the league.”
Among the best
Broderick Robinson, the reigning SWL player of the year, is well on his way to repeating. The senior shooting guard is averaging a league-leading 21.3 points per game, good enough to rank seventh in Class 5A.
To put that in perspective, Robinson is seven-tenths of a point per game ahead of University of Colorado recruit Dominique Collier, whose play draws comparisons with Chauncey Billups. The Denver East product is arguably the most talented scoring guard the state has seen in years.
Robinson also scores nearly five points more per game than Colorado’s top prospect, De’Ron Davis, a power forward for Overland.
Robinson isn’t afraid to admit he follows other top players in Colorado to see where he stacks up. As a member of the Denver-based Colorado Shining Stars AAU team, Robinson has played against many of the top players in the state.
“My AAU team has me traveling around the country in the offseason, and that’s really improved my game,” Robinson said. “(I’m) playing all kinds of talented guys. I definitely keep up with (top players), and it’s fun for me to see where I stack up during the high school season. We play a lot during the summer.”
Year to year, Robinson has seen a spike in his scoring numbers and his shooting percentages. He’s averaging about six points per game more than he did during the 2012-13 season and is shooting a higher percentage (43 percent) while taking fewer shots per point.
Robinson has made more than half of the shots he’s taken during four games this season.
“I think he’s expanded his game this offseason,” Johnson said. “It’s good because some of the looks he’s been getting in nonleague games won’t be there when we face teams that know Broderick.
“He’ll be box-and-oned, double-teamed and face-guarded there. But he’s a good enough passer where he’ll be able to keep teams honest about guarding him.”
Henry Carmichael took shots from beyond the arc many times during his career as a Tiger. But during an open gym prior to his senior season, Carmichael tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee. The injury sidelined the returning starter for the entire 2013-14 season. But instead of sitting out, Carmichael moved a few seats down the bench and is serving as an assistant coach for Grand Junction.
“I’ve always been a basketball IQ guy, outsmarting the people I’m playing against,” Carmichael said. “I’d much rather be doing something like this than sitting at home. I just love being around (basketball).”
Johnson thinks Carmichael, if he doesn’t play basketball in college, will have a bright future as a coach.
“He’s an X’s and O’s guy, and he’ll see things on the court and while watching film,” Johnson said. “He’s that kind of player-coach for us, as much as we want him on the floor. I told him, if anything, it’s the start to his coaching career. With the way he communicates and his basketball IQ, I think he does have a future in coaching.”
Carmichael has developed a motivating style of coaching. Although he can’t run, Carmichael will coach players on shooting, shag balls during shootaround, and he tries to pump up his teammates during practices and games.
All’s Wells that ends Wells
If center D.J. Wells is the future of the Tigers, that future is bright. In a development arc that started last season, the 6-foot-7 junior went from scrawny-but-talented to an absolute force in the middle. This year he enters SWL play with the best numbers for blocks (3.1 per game) and rebounds (7.5 per game). Although Wells is averaging about 10 points per game, a number similar to his sophomore season, Johnson said Wells’ approach has changed.
“He’s a lot more aggressive,” Johnson said. “He’s been a big anchor for us down low and won’t back down from anyone.”
In addition, his personality and attitude have surfaced, serving as a spark for the team.
“He got mean and a little more aggressive,” Robinson said. “He’s mean and aggressive and physical, and I love to see that from him. He’ll bail us out when some of these guys drive.”
Wells said he’s playing with more confidence, a product of being one year older.
“When I was a sophomore I was kind of shy, and I wasn’t really there with the seniors,” Wells said. “Now that I’m a junior, I feel like I’ve had to take the position of some of those older guys that have graduated. I can be more aggressive.”