Boys high school basketball teams are off for the holiday break, and state tournament playoff games are nine weeks away.
However, south metro teams have been priming themselves for league and possible postseason action by playing in local and out-of-state tournaments.
There are advantages to playing in tournaments such as the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas, the SAISD tourney in San Antonio and local tournaments such as the ones at Smoky Hill, ThunderRidge, Rock Canyon, Green Mountain, Ponderosa, Prairie View, Mullen and Ralston Valley to name just a few.
Cherry Creek, Legend and Highlands Ranch competed in the Cherry Creek Holiday Classic between Dec. 21-23.
“We've seen good teams, we've seen teams that play different styles,” said Legend coach Kevin Boley. “Like against Pine Creek, they shot a ton of threes. We got pressed against Thomas Jefferson and saw an athletic team.
“When we were in the Smoky Hill tournament, there were different styles of play. It prepares you for when get into the season, whatever you see you are prepared for it.”
One of the differences between tournament play — with back-to-back games — and regular season league contests is the time between games.
“One of our strengths is game planning, watching film and making adjustments,” said Boley. “You miss out on that in tournaments, but sometimes it is easier for the kids to just turn around, play and not have to overthink the game. What you are looking for is good competition heading into the break.”
Highlands Ranch coach Mike Gibbs claims playing and watching other teams in tournaments is valuable.
“You get to play teams you probably wouldn't normally see, and most of the tournaments are pretty competitive,” he said. “You get playing back-to-back without much preparation, and you're playing teams with different styles and philosphies.
“It gives a chance for kids to go out and, more than playing, it's a chance to watch other teams that you wouldn't normally get to see. It's a great deal for us.”
Cherry Creek coach Mike Brookhart explained that when the Colorado High School Activities Association expanded, it provided the opportunity for teams to participate in tournaments.
“When the state added more games for us to play from 19 to 23, me and a couple other coaches wanted to put together tournaments,” he said. “With 19 games it was difficult to get tournaments in because of your league games. Cherry Creek put this tournament together 12 years ago, and it's been really good. We switch teams around and the dates are according to our CHSAA rules. It's been competitive. We've had teams from Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.
“It gives teams a chance to play three days in a row, gives coaches a chance to see different kids and play at different times. It kind of takes you out of your regular schedule. We play in the afternoon instead of 7 at night. You don't have that time to prepare so you worry about what you do rather than what they do. Sometimes when the league starts, you worry too much about what the other team does and not pay attention to what you do.”