We’re talkin’ bee-ball
Kaliszweski and Cribari
Talkin’ prep bee-ball
Chambers and Rudy Carey
The Wilsons, the Frinks and Micheal Ray
They knew them all from Boulder to Ouray
Especially Chauncey, Reggie and the Shav
-with apologies to Terry Cashman
The names roll off the tongue, like the years roll over our backs. Like indelible lessons in school.
And they were rolling around in my head as I decided that a list of the all-time best Colorado high school boys basketball players would be a solid addition to the Mile High Sports Magazine “Basketball Issue.”
And you think you have issues.
It seemed like a simple stroll down memory lane. After all, Colorado may be heaven but it sure ain’t Indiana. Nevertheless, I soon realized that a lot of damn good ballplayers have passed through Colorado high schools since 1922. As the volume of names multiplied, I knew I needed some help.
So, I talked to a few people, coaches like Dick Katte, Duane Lewis, Bob Cates and Bob Caton, who have more than 2,000 victories between them. And then a few more people, yakkers like Joe Williams and Irv Brown, the highly respected team on Mile High Sports AM 1340 who never consider it beneath them to talk – and talk knowledgeably – about high school sports. And MHSM editor Doug Ottewill who hasn’t missed many state tournaments since he was old enough to hold a CHSAA pass. And former Rocky Mountain News prep writer Gerald Valerio. And a retired, small-school superintendent and avid high school sports fan named Steve Beaber who buys me Bud Lights and cheeseburgers at Bud’s Bar in Sedalia. And I didn’t forget Dennis Teeters, former coach, official and district athletic director from Mesa Valley School District, or Tim Simmons, former CU sports information director and son on the legendary Pueblo J.C., Southern Colorado State College and USC coach Harry “The Chief” Simmons.
Bert Borgmann, CHSAA’s basketball guru has probably seen more state hoops tournament games than almost anybody but Caton (who hasn’t missed one since 1962) and can actually remember most of them. And, finally, Ginny Lorbeer, the former Manual and Montbello cheerleader sponsor (yes, those boots) who has kept official game stats at the state tourney since 1973.
I consulted the CHSAA record book, which CHSAA director of digital media Ryan Casey is whipping into shape, the 2013 “Century of DPS Basketball – Boys” list and a Feb. 8, 2012 piece by Brent Briggeman of the Gazette-Telegraph on the best players in the history of the Pikes Peak region. And the March 11, 2010 Denver Post “All-Devlin” teams, along with the list of Mr. Colorado Basketball winners, an award the Post initiated in 1993 and was won by a guy named Chauncey for the first three years. Plus, countless Irv Moss “Colorado Classics” pieces in the Post on the likes of Sayyid Abdal-Rahman, Dick Yates, Rudy Carey, Maceo Broadnax, Ron Shavlik, Gary Rhoades and Harry Hollines, among others.
And the names rolled in.
Still fresh in our minds: Brian Carey, Dominique Collier, Josh Scott, Riley Grabau, Bud Thomas, Reggie Jackson, Levi Knutson, Matt Bouldin, Andrew Brown, Sean Ogirri, Nick Fazekas, Franklin Ryk, Patrick Simpson and Blair Wilson.
And back into last few decades of the 20th Century, for those who have haunted the Denver Coliseum, the Auditorium Arena and McNichols every March the names are almost as fresh. Chauncey, and Micheal Ray and Joe Barry (no last names needed), Michael Ruffin, Johnny Reece, Brooks Thompson, Mark Randall, Terry Taylor Jr., LaVon Williams, Loren Lutz, Victor White, Jimmy Ranson. Logan, Fosnes and Cribarri.
And if the tongue is thicker and the back more bent, maybe names from the storied Denver Prep League of the ’50s and ’60s resound, with the likes of West High’s Hal Kinard, he of the unstoppable fade-away jumper, Dennis Boone, Dodgers pitcher Stan Williams and his nephew Mark Williams, Gary Rhoades, Bobby Caton, Rick Fisher, Harry Hollines and Sam Batey – who each had outstanding sons play in the ’80s – Keith Ancell, Carney Crisler, Art Bunte, Horace Kearney, Dudley “Bo” Mitchell. And if you’ve forgotten a slender slasher named Rayford Tillis who played on state championship teams at Denver East in 1964 and 1965, it might be because he changed his name to Sayyid Abdal-Rahman and went on to coach Montbello to a state crown in 1984.
Some old-timers say the best ever from the DPL was Ronnie Shavlik, a two-time All-American at NC State. Others might argue for South’s Chuck Darling, an All-American and Phi Beta Kappa at Iowa and a member of the 1956 U.S. Olympic team.
Or if the tongue is tied and the back nearly broken, maybe you recall the long-gone heroes better than you remember the stars of last year’s state tournament. Two-time All-American Larry McGlynn from the 1924 national champion and 1923 and ’24 state champion Windsor Wizards, or behemoths 6-foot-5 Jerry Snyder and 6-foot-3 Gerald Hall from tiny Joes High School team that claimed the 1929 and ’30 one-class state titles and won the national championship in our hearts… although cruel history notes that the “Wonder Boys” actually finished third in Chicago.
Or Pueblo Central’s Dutch Clark, considered by some the greatest athlete this state has ever produced, and his Colorado College roommate, Bill Hinkley of the 1925 Manual Training Bricklayers. Or DPL stars of the 1930s, Art Unger, Roy and Bob Wilson, Bruno Konopka and Manual’s Hoyt Brawner, who coached at DU for 13 years. And the ’40s saw the likes of Ed Calloway Sr., Dick Yates Sr., Chuck Flowers, Lonnie Couture, Joe Strain Sr. and Maceo Brodnax.
Or maybe you remember the small school phenoms competing in the Auditorium Arena, the Coliseum, then later at Southern Colorado State, the Pueblo Fairgrounds and Moby. Names like Custer County’s Scott Wilson, Akron’s Brady Baer, who are tied for career field goals at 970 in the CHSAA record book. Or how about a couple of coaching legends who could fill it up on their own – Kenny Shaw, who averaged 30.4 a game as Merino won its second straight Class A title in 1970, and Duane Lewis, who shot 64 percent and averaged 20.2 in four years at Burlington. Only Baer played during the three-point era. Shaw and Lewis were not the typical small school stars who go on to play small college ball; they respectively earned scholarships to New Mexico State and CU.
And it’s the small school kids who dominate many of the CHSAA scoring records. Remember Lane Gooden, who averaged 38.8 for Kim in 1975-76? Or Jeff Sherman, a De Beque Dragon, and Eric Brownlee of defunct Lone Star, who each averaged 35.9 as seniors in the late ’70s? How about a pair of Western Slopers, Jon Baskin and Paul Cain, who starred at Steamboat Springs and Basalt, then went on to become the only two members of the 2,000-point club at Mesa State?
If you ate fish on Friday and watched high school football on Sunday, you probably have fond memories of the Denver Parochial League, which was petering out in the late ’60s as Mullen and Regis opted out to join the CHSAA, soon followed by Holy Family and Machebeuf. But Irv Moss, in a fond memoir that ran in The Denver Post on Aug. 7, 2006, saluted some of the best “Paroke” hoopsters: Tommy Robinson and Terry Jameson (Regis); Jim Deidel (Mullen); Eloy Mares (Annunciation); Gene and Bob Schnabel (Cathedral); Phil Sorenson, Kenny Ertle and Jerry Williams (St. Joe’s); John Conway (Holy Family); Al Steinke and Bob Weber (St. Francis); Mike Woytek (Mount Carmel); and Denny Hensen (Machebeuf).
So, you see, when I sent out a few emails to the aforementioned experts, requesting names of their favorite local hoopsters, I got them alright. Oh I got them. And then I got them some more. And before I knew it, the list had swelled to 265 names of kids all of whom could fill it up then and are probably still convinced that none of the other 264 guys could have blocked their shot.
But you know what I really got? A giant hoop-ache….
So what am I gonna do? I went to Casey Light, MHSM GM and web guru, and asked him how I could get some help paring down my list. I told him that I don’t have any realistic expectations of getting it down to 50 but that maybe by the CHSAA’s 100th annual state tournament in 2021 we might have an “All-Century 100” list.
Here’s where you, gentle reader, come in. Each week, beginning Nov. XX, there will be a different list of names on the MHSM website for you to vote on (and a place for write-ins, too). Then, God willing and Bear Creek don’t rise (remember Brad Hunt averaging 35 ppg in 1973?), we’ll have some kind of a list of whom we collectively believe are the best ballplayers to ever grace Colorado’s hardwoods. I just want some input and someone to help shoulder the inevitable blame and criticism that any such subjective list will engender.
Do you vote for the best based solely on their high school careers? Or do you look at what they did in college and the pros? Does school size matter? Geography? Character (I don’t want anyone checking into mine)? Era?
You make the call.