Friday, November 21, 2008
Michael Vandahl and Aaron Calkins spent the better part of three years terrorizing the Western Slope League.
The two 2008 Steamboat Springs High School graduates helped the basketball team win 30 straight league games and go to the Sweet 16 of the playoffs two years in a row.
But now, both are dealing with the fact they probably won't play a competitive game this year.
The two former high school stars understand, however, that sitting on the bench as redshirts this year still means they get to continue playing basketball.
"I'm not sure if I'm going to redshirt, but most likely I will," said Vandahl, who has been dressing and traveling with the University of Denver. "Everybody here is just as good. You have to work harder because everybody is good. You're not the best anymore."
Vandahl was certainly the best last year on the Western Slope. In addition to being named player of the year, Vandahl was a second-team All-State selection. While he had offers to other Division II schools where he would have likely seen the court early, Vandahl jumped at the chance to play for coach Joe Scott and Denver.
"It's just like starting high school again," Vandahl said. "You're at the bottom of the food chain again. But it's what I expected."
Calkins - who was the Western Slope League Player of the Year his junior year - will redshirt this season at Mesa State College in Grand Junction.
Calkins has been playing with the Mavericks since the middle of August and said he's looking forward to his redshirt year.
In addition to getting in shape and understanding the game better, Calkins said the redshirt year will allow him to get used to college.
"It's just kind of a different feeling," Calkins said about redshirting. "You don't have a game to look forward to. I'm just working on getting better and stronger. My mental preparation is to get better."
Student athletes who redshirt are allowed to practice with the team and take classes at the school but do not play in games and do not use up a year of athletic eligibility.
So even with long practices, school every day and the absence of a real game, the two said they're just relishing the opportunity of playing basketball beyond high school.
"Yeah, I mean the nice thing about redshirting is you get another year," Vandahl said. "It's not like high school where you only get four years. There is nothing wrong with it. You get bigger and stronger. I'd love to play, but we'll just see how it goes."