Viva Las Vegas

Local basketball team rolls the dice in Sin City

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— After strong showings from his players at several basketball camps this summer, Steamboat Springs High School basketball coach Kelly Meek will push his luck when he takes eight players to the Reebok Big Time Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas this weekend.

"Our first game will be against the team that won it all last year," Meek said. "They have three players in the top 150 in the country, so it will be a good test for our players."

The team, the Ohio Force, will be one of four guaranteed games Steamboat will play. The tournament begins Saturday and takes place at 22 Las Vegas area high schools.

"There are going to be some great teams at this tournament," Steamboat senior Cameron Petet said. "But this is a great opportunity to develop as a team and bond as players."

The field will include 304 high school teams from across the U.S. and including Hawaii and Alaska. In the past, top NBA prospects such as LeBron James have taken part in the tournament and have set the standard for what teams should expect.

"As long as we keep up with the other teams and don't quit, I'll be happy," Petet said. "I think with our defense we might shock a few of these teams."

Meek said this is the first time Steamboat has attended the tournament. However, several of his former players have gone to the tournament with Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) teams.

"We are playing a few more tournaments this summer thanks to some generous people in our community that donated money," Meek said.

The coach said those donors would rather remain anonymous, but that their money has allowed the Steamboat team to attend several camps and tournaments.

In June, Meek took the eight players who will travel to Las Vegas to a team camp at Western State College in Gunnison. The team, which includes Tanner Stillwell, Cameron Petet, Michael Vandahl, Colby Kostur, Aaron Calkins, Richie Keith, Blake Weinstein and Alex Wood, finished second at the Gunnison camp with an 8-2 record. The squad lost in the championship game to a high school from Wasilla, Alaska, with an enrollment of 1,500 students.

Steamboat also went 8-2 during a tournament at the University of Wyoming earlier this month. Steamboat advanced past three previously unbeaten teams. It defeated Mountain View in the semifinals and Centaurus in the finals. Steamboat took 30 players to the tournament and fielded four teams.

Steamboat's younger teams struggled at the start, but on the final day, Steamboat's teams won all eight games they played.

"Success in the summer normally translated to the winter season," Meek said. "Last year our club teams went .500 in the summer, and that's about where we ended up in the high school season."

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