Cardinals to take on Sedgwick County
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
PARACHUTE ” If you happen to catch the Grand Valley boys basketball team shooting around during halftime of the game preceding its own, you might notice all the players dressed in black T-shirts with red targets on the front and their numbers and nicknames on the back.
The target, with a Cardinal bullseye, symbolizes how the defending Class 2A champs are viewed by other teams ” an opponent to dethrone.
The stories behind the nicknames ” such as Apostle, Big Rig, Last Warrior and Geico ” go a little deeper, representing a five-year Grand Valley tradition and the brainchild of assistant coach/funny man Paul Harvey.
The Cardinals began receiving nicknames prior to the 2003-04 season when then freshman Sam McKinley and Harvey collaborated to give aliases ” some kind, most comically insulting ” to the Grand Valley players.
“We started coming up with them together and I have kept the tradition going this year,” said Harvey, as McKinley graduated last year after helping lead the Cardinals to their first team title in school history. “They all like it. It is like a rite of passage to get their nicknames.”
While Harvey comes up with most of the names, he is sometimes aided by the players. Each player gets a name and has to approve it, as does head coach Scott Kiburis who possess the all-powerful veto ability. The names also change from year to year.
Guard Tyler Jensen is nicknamed the Apostle, which Harvey says is the first nice name the senior has ever had.
“He is our next Sam McKinley, so he is following in the path of the chosen one,” Harvey said. “He’s also with Kendall Babler (star point guard on the state bound GVHS girls team and his girlfriend) all the time, who is the female equivalent.”
There are other complementary names like junior William Waugh’s Big Rig aptly called as he is the strongest bench presser on the team and can supposedly hoist close to 300 pounds with his 5-foot-10 frame. Then there’s sophomore Tyler Randle’s Last Warrior because as the only freshman to suit up during last year’s state title game, Randle will be the final remaining member of the 2006-07 championship squad.
Harvey says his favorite pseudonym this year is senior Cole Kraft’s Geico.
“Geico ” It’s so easy a caveman could do it,” Harvey said laughing. “When he plays its a lot like a caveman.”
One of Harvey’s favorite of all time, was that of Luke Braby last season ” a fitting title for the 6-foot-5 center.
“He was Sherwin Williams because he owned the paint,” Harvey said.
The Grand Valley nicknames give a glimpse into the character of the Cardinals. A close team made up of friends who joke around with each other and spend time together.
“We are always hanging out, playing video games or something,” Jensen said.
With Harvey as the ringleader, the team knows how to have a good time.
“They are goofy. It is hard to take them seriously because like Colton Cowan always has something stupid to say ” always asking questions, ” Kiburis said.
As comical as they are off and sometimes on the court, when it is time to get serious, the Cardinals don’t mess around. They are 20-2 this season and undefeated against 2A teams, as their only losses came against 3A opponents Aspen and Coal Ridge. Grand Valley, which beats down teams with its never-ending option offense and strong 3-point shooting, has earned Western Slope League, District 5 and Western Regional Championships and averages a 20-point margin of victory.
“They play really tough, hard games,” Kiburis said. “When the game goes, they are really competitive.”
Now the Cardinals will be taking their competitiveness and success to the 2A state basketball tournament to Colorado State University at Pueblo’s Massari Arena, where they are two wins away from repeating as state champions.
That mission begins today at 10:15 a.m. when the top-seeded Cards face No. 8-seeded Sedgwick County (18-5) in the Great Eight. Sedgwick, the District 2 runner-up, is led by Kyle Pocock, who is averaging 24 points per game.
“Thursday is going to be a tough game,” Harvey said.
Despite being the favorite, Grand Valley is overlooking no one in the tournament. In fact Harvey says any team it faces could be the next champion.
“There are so many good teams, this is one of the best group of teams I have seen,” Harvey said. “I think any team has the chance to go all the way.”
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The Coal Ridge High boys suffered their first 3A Western Slope League loss of the year Thursday night on the road at Gunnison, falling to the defending league champion Cowboys 65-45.