It is only summer and high school basketball players and teams are polishing their skills for next season.
Still, it seemed strange to watch Highlands Ranch play without a big man in the pivot.
Zach Braxton, the dominating 6-foot-9 center who was the 2013-14 Continental League Player of the Year, has graduated and Highlands Ranch will be competing next season with 6-4 front line players.
“We don't have a big guy but still we're not bad,” said Highlands Ranch coach Bob Caton. “We go 6-4, 6-4. So we won't be small but it's not like having Zach.”
Caton was pleased with what he's saw from his team in the Continental-Centennial Challenge tournament held June 19-21 at Heritage High School.
The Falcons have three regulars back from last season in Ryley Steward, Keith Coleman and Patrick Sullivan.
“We're trying to see what our team makeup is going to be like next year and then work to their strengths and try to improve on their weaknesses,” said Caton. “We've worked a little bit on different concepts, just getting the players to kind of know each other.”
ThunderRidge had only one senior on last season's team and the Grizzlies were the lone unbeaten team in the Continental-Centennial Challenge, winning all six games.
“We've done well this summer,” admitted ThunderRidge coach Joe Ortiz. “At Metro we were 5-1, at CU we went 6-0 and then here we went 6-0. We are 5-1 in the East League. We've lost to East and we lost to Eaglecrest. Those are our only two losses. We've had some good wins. We're doing well but it's summer.
“Teams are missing people, sometimes there are different things going on and you are playing more than you normally play. Most of the time we have 10 or 11 kids. So you take it with a grain of salt but we're pleased. The kids are finding different ways to win.”
Ortiz was quick to point out the advantages of summer basketball.
“Development, development, always development,” echoed Ortiz. “The most important thing is development. You are not as up and down after the wins and losses because it's summer. Our kids do get some exposure and we are evaluating them but it's strictly development. It's all about getting better. Wins in December mean a heck of a lot more.”
Continental League teams won 37 games against their Centennial counterparts. Centennial teams won only 11 games in the three-day tourney.
ThunderRidge was 6-0 while Highlands Ranch, Mountain Vista, Legend and Regis Jesuit compiled 5-1 records. Chaparral and Heritage went 4-2 while Rock Canyon won three games and lost three contests. Douglas County and Castle View didn't participate.
Eaglecrest paced Centennial teams with a 4-2 record. Cherry Creek was 2-4 and Arapahoe, Mullen and Overland all went winless.
“The tournament went pretty well,” said Heritage coach and tournament director Jentry Byleveld. “There were some really competitive games. Everyone had to bring their A game otherwise they got beat because all the teams were pretty good.
“What was nice was you got to see different styles. Summer is for the individuals and the fall is for the team. There is a lot of development and that's why this tournament was one of the better ones.
“The competition and coaches can see what they have out there, mixing lineups up. What is nice is in the Centennial League there is a little more athletic ability and we don't get to see that in our league as much. It gives us a taste of who can do it and who can't. You can really evaluate players big time.”
Team by team records in league showdown
Highlands Ranch 5-1
Mountain Vista 5-1
Rock Canyon 3-3
Cherry Creek 2-4
Cherokee Trail 2-4
Smoky Hill 2-4