Teams prepare for tourney |

Teams prepare for tourney

Wyoming basketball competition kicks off

Luke Graham

Michael Vandahl and his Sailors teammates hope a motivational speech from 2006 World Series MVP David Eckstein will help Steamboat's performance during a Wyoming tournament that begins today.

— If the Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team was looking for any extra motivation heading into today’s opening game of the Great Western Flaming Gorge Classic, it may have got it before Tuesday’s practice.

Before taking the court, players gathered in the coaches’ office for a phone call

from St. Louis Cardinals

shortstop and 2006 World Series Most Valuable Player David Eckstein.

“It was really interesting to hear him talk about how he prepares mentally and physically,” Sailors head coach Kelly Meek said. “If there was one thing about him, it’s that he never makes excuses – he plays through failure. He works really hard on making other teammates feel better about themselves. It was really dynamite.”

Meek said the initial results from Eckstein’s talk were apparent. In what he called a “solid defensive practice,” Meek said he could see some of Eckstein’s lessons play out on the court.

Recommended Stories For You

“(Eckstein’s) a guy that other people he competes against are more athletic,” Meek said about the 5-foot-7 shortstop, who also won a World Series in 2002 with the Anaheim Angels. “But nobody is as mentally prepared.”

The conversation with Eckstein was set up through a friend of Meek’s.

After a fourth-place finish in the Steamboat Shoot-Out, Meek said he could see his players trying to be too perfect and then get down on themselves.

Meek said he saw players encouraging one another and better team play during Tuesday’s practice.

The trip also will give the Sailors more time to be around each other – an ingredient Meek said is key to any team’s success.

“It’s absolutely going to be a real test for us,” Meek said. “There are strong teams and players. It’s going to be real, real physical.”

Both the girls and boys teams appear to have the toughest draw in the tournament, with the girls playing the late game today and an early game Friday. The boys have a late game Friday and an early game Saturday.

The Sailors boys were placed in the big school pool and will play games against Sheridan, Kemmerer, Green River and fifth-ranked Rock Springs, all in Wyoming.

The girls play Jackson Hole, Star Valley and Evanston, all in Wyoming.

Girls head coach John Ameen said his team has had a good week of practice, except for a few minor injuries and illnesses.

“There’s definite improvement occurring,” Ameen said. “We’ve finished off the first couple of weekends of tournament and are trying to prepare them for this one.”

Ameen said he has seen tape of Jackson Hole and expects good competition from all three schools.

“They’re all schools of similar size to Steamboat,” he said. “It should be a good measuring stick.”

– To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail