Steamboat Springs One of the top eight teams in the state, 4A Western Slope Conference Champions, a
16-game unbeaten streak and an 11-0 undefeated home record.
Those are the stats that will hang over the heads of the Steamboat boys basketball team this season. With only one starter returning from last year's starting lineup, the Sailors will be looking to extend the legacy of coach Kelly Meek's 27 years of top-ranked teams.
Three players out of last year's eight-man rotation will be on the court and looking for a way back to the state tournament, where Steamboat fell 57-47 to Lewis-Palmer in the second round last season.
"Our goal is to go further than last year," forward Ryan Scheer said.
But graduation was costly for the Sailors as the team's four top scorers and two top rebounders moved on from their 21-4 season.
Even with the losses, Meek said his team would be well balanced both on the inside and outside and have a killer defense.
"There have been a number of years we've lost key people. I just expect them to follow tradition," Meek said. "There's no doubt that they'll replace last year's group. We are an excellent defensive team," Meek said.
While Meek said this year's team, which is smaller than last year, has a strong defensive base, offensively there is work to do. Slowing down the offensive charge, building patience and reading plays better are on Meek's list of improvements.
"(Offense) is going to take time because we're so young," Meek said.
He did note that shooting-wise the team is right on target. During the team's preseason camp, the shot doctor, Duane Lewis, visited with the Sailors and helped the team with the basics of shooting.
The Sailor who brings the most experience this year will be returning starter and point guard Jeff Aragon. The 5-foot-7 senior, who mainly played shooting guard last year, chalked up 6.3 points per game and won second team all-conference honors.
Aragon, who is also a tough defensive presence on the court, shared some of the point guard duties last year with honorable mention all-conference player Ryan Kiely who was lost to graduation.
Scheer will also be coming into his senior season with a fair amount of varsity experience. The 6-foot-3 forward started in more than half of the games, replacing last year's leading scorer, Andrew Johnston, who was out for a portion of the season with a sprained ankle.
Johnston led the team with 11.4 points per game and 6.5 rebounds.
Scheer's season highlight was an 11-point performance that helped lead Steamboat to a major upset against No. 3-ranked Pueblo Central in the first round of the state playoffs. He finished the season with 5.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
"Inside and outside (Scheer) is hard to guard," Meek said.
Alex Mackey will be rounding out the returning three. Mackey (6-foot-5) was backup to Rusty Eck last year. While on the court, Mackey tallied 4.9 points and came down with 4.5 rebounds per game.
"Those three kids are who we're going to build around right now," Meek said.
To help fill in the two vacant spots are two additional seniors, four juniors and one freshman. Meek said he is looking at a nine-man deep bench.
On the list of returning seniors is Rod Beall, who will be missing the first part of the season with an injured knee. The 5-foot-10 guard has played in three varsity games.
Six-foot Ryan Banning is the other senior. Banning returns to the team after spending a year in Texas.
Meek sees strong potential from junior Kyle Nelson, who may start as the team's other guard. Nelson, who is 5-foot-6 inches tall, played in three varsity games last year. Others in contention for the starting job at shooting guard are juniors John Daschle and Cory Moore.
At the forward position,
6-foot-1 junior Cody Sherril and 6-foot-3 freshman Cameron Burney are expected to round out the varsity roster.
With two weeks of practice underway, Meek said the team has been working hard which has shone through on their tough defense.
"We have a lot more heart than last year," Aragon said.