Alumni reunite for Sunday night hoops

Mike Vidakovich
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kara K. Pearson Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” They don’t show up each week to try and relive past glory, even though some are former high school standouts and collegiate players.

The final score still matters, but not as much as it used to.

Then there’s the issue of the body. Ah yes, the body.

“We sometimes laugh at each other, because our brains know what we want to do, but the body doesn’t want to do it,” said Jeremy Joslin, a 1995 graduate of Glenwood High School who now serves as a mortgage banker in his hometown.

For Joslin, the Sunday night adult basketball league at the Glenwood Middle School is a far cry from his high school playing days when he helped lead the Demons to the 1994 state semifinals against a Lewis Palmer team that featured Notre Dame-bound and current NBA player Pat Garrity.

“For me, it’s all about getting out and getting some exercise with old friends,” said Joslin. “We realize we’re past our prime.”

Getting some exercise and being with friends is the recurring theme you get from most of the Sunday players as to why they still run the court, but Houston native Travis Fiscus reveals the main reason why many participate in the six-team, 4-on-4 league.

“I love the sport. I think we all do,” said Fiscus, who not only plays but also serves as a league referee most nights.

The league began two years ago when Glenwood Middle School physical education teacher Blake Risner decided to turn his Sunday night open gym format into a formal league. The interest was there and so were the players. Risner decided to give it a go.

“I had always thought about running a league, either in conjunction with open gym, or instead of it,” said Risner, who is also the Glenwood Springs High School head track and field coach. “When the community center didn’t have a fall league a couple of years ago, I decided to do it.”

Participation in the league requires a Sunday time commitment which leaves many of the players juggling work and family obligations, not to mention missing out on the occasional Sunday night Denver Bronco game.

Glenwood High School boys basketball coach Greg Hire smiles when he talks about fitting Sunday hoops into his busy schedule.

“I love it, my wife hates it,” said Hire, who also manages the used-car division at Berthod Motors. “I just love being around the game.”

Another Glenwood High School coach, Scott Nykerk, is in the middle of a very busy volleyball season when the Sunday league begins in late September. Even with practice during the week and games most Saturdays, Nykerk still rarely misses the Sunday basketball outing.

“It’s about the only thing I do any more that is half-way athletic,” said Nykerk, who teaches science at Glenwood High. “I’m usually just standing on the sidelines. I still like the competition of playing.”

The competition and the competitive spirit are both on display as the games unfold each Sunday evening. There’s a good mixture of the young and the old in the player’s ages, with the drive to compete still evident in both groups.

Chris Laven, who, like Joslin, saw the state basketball tournament up close, was a starting forward on the 1993 Glenwood team that lost to Alamosa in the first round at the venerable Denver Coliseum. He admits that there’s still some of that fire from days gone by in him.

“I still have a little of that competitive spirit in me,” said Laven.

Daniel Koski, who is a 2000 graduate of Basalt High School, might be the most competitive player in the league, and, arguably, one of the best. With an unorthodox-looking jump shot that usually finds the bottom of the net and lightning quickness going to the basket, Koski is a difficult defensive matchup for most who play in the league.

With so much ability, what makes Koski a bit of a basketball anomaly is that he never suited up in any high school games for the Longhorns.

“It was my decision to not play in high school,” said Koski, who participates in most every adult league and tournament in the valley. “I would just go to open gyms anywhere and everywhere I could. I was always playing.”

Koski enjoys and appreciates the organization and quality of basketball in the Sunday night league.

“Blake does a great job with it. The people here know how to play the game. It’s very organized,” he said.

The league features a veritable who’s who of valley basketballers. Mike Picore, who either plays in or organizes most local roundball events, is a regular. With Picore each week comes the league’s most dedicated ” and only ” fan, his fiancee Kristi Bradford, who rarely misses a game.

Recent Glenwood High School graduates Tyler Thimsen and Tucker Riley still play a pretty good brand of basketball for their respective teams, as does 1999 alum Phil Stowe. Marco Salmen is another former Glenwood player no one in the league ever wants to guard. His basketball resume is secondary to his accomplished career as a cross country runner both at Glenwood High School and Duke University. Needless to say, he runs circles around most of the semi-conditioned defenders who try to keep up with him.

There’s also Trent DeCrow, who currently lives in Grand Junction and makes the drive most Sundays to get his basketball fix. DeCrow, the league’s best pure shooter, is automatic from the perimeter with his smooth left-handed jumper.

The league even has its own version of Allen Iverson in 2001 Demon standout guard Chris Hoffmeister. Averaging 28 points per game, Hoffmeister can beat you with an NBA range 3-pointer or a twisting move to the basket culminating with a no-look pass to a teammate for an easy two.

Watching Hoffmeister and 1994 Glenwood all-stater Mike Schubert square off against one another is as good as local basketball gets.

When the league finals wrap up and a champion is crowned in early January, most of the players will venture upvalley to spend the winter playing in the Carbondale Recreation Department’s basketball league. Some will hang up the shoes until Picore’s Sayre Park tournaments roll around in June and July.

Either way, for these Sunday players, the love of the game never seems to fade, even if the body does put up more of a protest with each passing year.

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