Steamboat players dominate off-season basketball league
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Five Steamboat Springs boys basketball players have been playing the game they love for the past couple months through Game On Sports Camps, a nonprofit based in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Parker Lindquist, Jackson Metzler, Kellen Adams, Granger Rowan and Eric Pollert were just looking for a way to come together and stay competitive, but ended up having a wildly successful few weeks. The team ended up having the best record in the 4-on-4 league at 9-1, and Pollert was named the MVP among all high school boys.
“I would describe them as a very mature and all-around athletic team,” said Cassandra Irving, the founder and director of the Sports Camps at Game On. “They had great skill, very comprehensive in their skill. The other thing about this team is they had incredible emotional control.”
Led by Rowan, the team called themselves the Mikeys after their head varsity coach Michael Vandahl, who they wanted to thank and support for all his efforts.
The group of guys have been playing together for five or six years, so no one needed much convincing to form the team and play together.
“We just came together pretty much by nature,” said Lindquist.
Each Wednesday, the boys drove down to Glenwood Springs to play the game they love. Playing on a small team forced each player to step up and take it upon themselves to score and play hard, while still supporting their teammates. Last year, when a large chunk of the team left midway through the season for various reasons, the younger players were forced to take on larger roles. Now, they’ll be more than ready.
“We learned to step up a bunch,” said Rowan. “Last year it was hard losing the seniors and everybody tried to step up, but it was difficult to do so. What we learned from this is to go out of your comfort zone and really try to do your best. People need to score more and play defense better.”
Pollert, a 6-foot-7 senior, was named the high school boys league’s most valuable player.
“Having an opportunity to play with my friends was an opportunity I wanted to take advantage of,” he said.
Irving said Pollert quickly became a threat in the league.
“We call him the tower of power,” she said. “That kid is massive, he’s got incredible height, but just a really great kid. He’s a great athlete. A lot came at him during the tournaments because he was unstoppable, people were hacking him and fouling him and he just remained calm and focused and I really respected the way he handled some of those situations.”
The Sailor players think they’re all ready for every situation and anticipate a season full of winning, assuming it goes on as planned.
“We’re trying to have good chemistry this season,” said Lindquist. “I bet we can make it into the playoffs. … I feel like we can pull it off. A lot of the league was playing in the 4 vs. 4 tournament, a lot of their best players, so I think we can go undefeated in league, honestly.”
Game On has been around for years, raising money from sports camps for young kids before using the funds raised to provide camps for kids in India and Ukraine. Usually, the programming is for kids 5 to 13. However, parents and coaches reached out to Irving this year asking for camps for older kids, since schools and parks and recreation offices weren’t providing as many leagues.
So, Irving decided to create a middle school league as well as high school girls and high school boys leagues. The response was incredible. Not only did local teams from the Roaring Fork Valley sign up, but so did teams from Steamboat Springs and Eagle Valley.
“It really just kind of exploded,” said Irving. “It ended up covering most of the Western Slope.”
With 175 athletes competing for about two months, Irving was proud to announce that not a single athlete or spectator reported testing positive. Irving hopes the success of the camps helps the state in making future decisions about youth athletics.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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