young basketball players running the basketball court
Clear Creek Middle School basketball players at practice under watchful eyes of Head Coach Phil Mauro (left) and Assistant Coach Frank Martin (right) in Evergreen Oct. 23 Credit: Chris Koeberl

In an introduction and tryout, 31 players from fifth through eighth grade took to the court at the Clear Creek County High School and Middle School in Evergreen Oct. 23.

The season schedule and number of schools participating this year is still being sorted out, but the first game is scheduled at Clear Creek High School Nov. 2, said Head Coach Phil Mauro.

Eager young student-athletes ran drills up and down the court auditioning skills of dribbling, passing and running, all the time, obedient to Mauro’s whistle.

The squad will be split into three teams white, blue and gold. Tryouts will determine white and blue teams with the remainder making up the gold team, but everyone plays, Mauro said.

There is a round-robin tournament already set for Nov. 7 for the gold team to give every player real-time game experience, Mauro added. 

The student portion of “student-athlete” became clear in Mauro’s opening remarks to the group. 

young basketball players run the court with blue lines and wooden court
Clear Creek Middle School basketball players in their first practice of the season in Evergreen Oct. 23. Credit: Chris Koeberl

“I care more about grades than I do about basketball,” Mauro emphasized. 

A+ behavior in school is required. Disciplinary issues in school mean you’re out. Mauro said he’s looking for examples and leaders in school and on the court.

New uniforms for players this year are an incentive, but even those aren’t guaranteed because according to Mauro, “Nothing is given, everything is earned.”

If you get the feeling this is more than a game rather than a learning/life experience, you have the right idea according to Mauro. 

young basketball player passing ball basketball court
Eighth grade Clear Creek Middle School student Talos Graham makes a pass during first practice of the season Oct. 23. Credit: Chris Koeberl

“You learn how to deal with situations, you learn how to deal with success and failure and put in the work (and) determination toward a goal,” he said.

Assistant coaches Frank Martin and Brendan Huff loudly exclaimed, “Yes, Coach!” to each of Mauro’s requests, perpetuating respect for the head coach position.

It was noticeable that during the initial practice/tryout what the coaches preach they practice on the court: discipline and respect.

The short season ends in December and will accommodate as many games as possible with several local school districts competing at home and away. 

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