Times Staff Writer
GHS Boys Basketball — With the bus loaded, bags packed and everyone accounted for, the Gunnison High School (GHS) boys basketball team — varsity and junior varsity — pulled out of the parking lot last Thursday. They were en route to the Jeff Linder Team Basketball Camp on the campus of University of Northern Colorado.
“It was such a great experience for the team to have,” said team member Pascual Lerma. “The competition there is what we needed. Especially for where we want to be for next year’s season.”
This was the first time the Cowboys attended the camp, which is highly competitive and features some of the best high school programs in Colorado High School Activities Association’s classes 3A-5A.
GHS played six games over the course of three days, taking on Chaparral (5A semi-finalist this past season), Cheyenne Mountain (4A playoff team), Frontier Academy (3A playoff team), Pomona (5A school) and a 4A program from the Kansas City area.
“The teams we faced were tougher than those we faced last year at Kansas, and we did better than we did then,” said Hunter Wood of last summer’s camp. “The team lived up to the expectations and we all saw something in each other. (We) know we have the potential to dominate the season next year.”
While wins and losses are always a good way to gauge a team's success at camp, that wasn’t what head coach Matt Smith was focused on.
“This trip was all about taking our first step toward building the relationships and standards that we want to cultivate going into another season,” said Smith. “Both teams made a tremendous amount of progress over the course of three days, not just in terms of learning offenses and understanding how things are done in this program, but creating the chemistry that’s instrumental to our success moving forward.”
Coming off a successful 2018-19 campaign, in which team chemistry was at an all time high, it will be important for the Cowboys to create those bonds if they hope to repeat the success of this past season. GHS finished 17-7 and made it to the Sweet 16 of the state tournament.
While GHS was far from home, they had a little help from a former Gunnison resident. Mike Book — former GHS athletic director and current principal at Wiggins High School — allowed the team to sleep in the wrestling room at his school, about 45 minutes east of Greeley.
The Gunnison community also played a big role in helping the GHS basketball team get to camp. Money raised over the course of the team’s 3v3 tournament and Cowboy Camp paid for tournament entry fees.
The Cowboys will have a slight break before getting back on the court. They plan to participate in the Western Colorado University men’s basketball Hoop Heaven Team Camp on June 21-23.
(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)