Markham takes charge at Mesa State
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Aaron Markham is playing basketball regularly again. Once the redshirt freshman from Carbondale was inserted into the Mesa State College men’s team’s starting lineup, the Mavericks found their game.Looking for a way to spark their offense, Mesa head coach Jim Heaps junked the normal two forward, two guard, center setup to an offense featuring three guards and two forwards with Markham set as Mesa’s point guard.Since installing the new scheme on Nov. 26, the formerly 2-2 Mavericks have won six of their last seven games. More importantly, four of those victories were against Rocky Mountain Conference opponents.While he’s pleased with the idea of having more playing time, Markham said the most important part of the change is that Mesa’s winning games.”I just want to win. That’s all I care about,” he explained. “We have guys that can shoot the ball. My job is to run the offense. Play hard defense and run the team.”Markham said the change has benefited the team.”Coach Heaps made the switch after the first four games because our offensive wasn’t clicking like we should, because we have a lot of offensive power. My job is to take care of the ball and pass. It’s what I’ve done my whole life. I can shoot and score if I have to. That’s not my job on the floor – it’s to get everybody involved.”That hasn’t been a problem. Since becoming Mesa’s main distributor, Markham has become the team’s leader in assists. It’s a place Markham’s been since his prep days at Roaring Fork. In his three-year career as a varsity regular, Markham set school records for assists in a single game, season and career and was the state’s Class 3A boys assist leader in his junior and senior years.While Mesa had some early interest in recruiting Markham, his stock rose during the 2004 3A state tournament finals, where Roaring Fork advanced to the championship game.”Mesa didn’t really come talk to me until real late in the recruiting process. I talked to (head) coach Jim Heaps and assistant coaches a couple times at the basketball camps. They showed some interest in me, but they didn’t call during the school year when I was playing,” he said.”Then we went to the state tournament and Jay Gonyeau, who referees in Grand Junction, saw me play. He told Mesa about me, and he told (the coaches) they should get me down for a recruiting visit.”Markham received an invitation. Once the coaching staff saw how the high school recruit’s skills meshed with the older players’, they made Markham an offer.”I went down, played with the guys, and I liked everybody,” Markham recalled. “I liked how close Mesa was for my family, and they offered me a pretty good scholarship. I looked at all the pros and it outweighed all the cons.”After committing to Mesa, the biggest adjustment Markham had to make was sitting out an entire year.”(Mesa) usually redshirts all their freshmen. I didn’t know that when they were recruiting me,” he said. “It was pretty tough because I was in the starting lineup all my life. Going to college and sitting out a year, it was tough because you’re a competitor and want to play.”It’s kind of hard to sit back and not play. I tried to do what my Dad, Joe, said: ‘You have to make the practices your games.’ So I just tried to go into practice like a game and work hard every day.”Markham’s work ethic paid off. But after sitting on the bench, he has to continue working hard to maintain his starting role.”I learned that every day you have to compete and play as absolutely hard as you can,” he said. “Because if you’re not playing well you’re going to be sitting on the bench. Everybody (here) was the best player on their high school team or their junior college team.”
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It was a close game, but after some thrilling back-and-forth plays the Rifle Bears were able to pull off the 28-20 victory over The Academy on May 1.