The Cardinals’ dynamic backcourt duo
Regardless of what level of sports one follows, there is usually at least one tandem in any sport that stands out above the rest and carries its team to greater heights.
Fortunately for the Grand Valley Cardinals boys basketball team and head coach Scott Parker, they have just that tandem in senior guard John Parker and junior guard Gunner Rigsby.
Through 13 games for the Cardinals, who sit 11-2 (7-1 3A Western Slope League) overall and are 10th-ranked in the state in 3A, Parker and Rigsby sit 14th and 21st in the state in points-per-game as the 6-foot-3, 170-pound Parker averages 22.2 points-per-game on 43 percent shooting, while the 5-foot-9, 155-pound Rigsby averages 21.0 points-per-game on 46 percent shooting from the floor.
In fact, Parker averages a double-double, ripping down 10.2 rebounds-per-game to lead the Cardinals in that category as well.
Combined, the dynamic backcourt duo averages roughly 66 percent of the team’s scoring average per game (66.7 points-per-game). A large reason the Cardinals sit tied for first in the 3A Western Slope League with the Coal Ridge Titans is due to the fact that Rigbsy and Parker can fill it up from anywhere on the court at any given time for Grand Valley.
During his 28 years around the Cardinals program, Joe Cason has watched some great players come through Parachute, including members of the 2007 2A state champion Cardinals. Cason was quick to point at the he feels Rigsby and Parker are the two best players he’s ever seen come through the program.
“They’re the top two in my eyes,” Cason said. “John is so smart. I mean, he could coach the team. As a player I think his ability to drive into the lane is excellent. As far as Gunner goes, I don’t think he has a weakness. He has everything you need in the game of basketball. His agility and jumping ability is great. His dribbling is great; I’ve never seen anything like it. Watching these two has been the most exciting time in my 28 years here. I go to practice every day just to be able to watch them.”
“Exciting” is a great word to describe the duo.
In three of the last four games — all resounding wins for the Cardinals — Rigsby and Parker have each eclipsed the 20-point mark, which has helped open the floor for other offensive weapons such as senior forward Tanner Magee and senior guard Leoray Hernandez, who have been able to get open looks and knock them down to provide the Cardinals with an offensive attack that’s increasingly difficult to slow down.
That attack all begins with Rigsby and Parker in the backcourt. Through the first three years of high school basketball together, Parker was more of the outside threat while Rigsby had more of a well-rounded game offensively.
After the graduation of John’s brother, Sam, the senior guard has taken on more of a leadership role and expanded his game to an inside-out threat, much like Rigsby is.
“It makes things a lot easier as a coach when you’ve got guys who can shoot like they [Gunner and John] can,” Scott Parker said. “Regardless of what we do [offensively] it’s hard to guard both of them at the same time. Usually when they’re on a roll like they have been it creates a lot more for us at both ends. High school basketball is such a momentum game, and if you get a little momentum going and hit a few big shots that the rest of the kids feed off of that energy.”
As of late the momentum has been on the side of the Cardinals thanks to the offensive output that Rigsby and Parker have turned in on a nightly basis.
Against Aspen on Jan. 16, Parker dropped a game-high 23 points as Rigsby chipped in with 21 of his own. The duo followed that up with 26 and 27 points, respectively, against the Basalt Longhorns on Jan. 22 before adding 27 and 22 each against Moffat County on Jan. 23.
In a 42-point win Saturday over Olathe, Parker dropped a game-high 28 points, while Rigsby added 26 points of his own. The duo outscored the Pirates on their own, adding to their impressive run this season alone.
In each of those games the Cardinals won comfortably by double-digits, which has helped raise the confidence level of the backcourt duo.
To hear Rigsby talk about the scoring outbursts, a lot of it has to do with a high confidence level.
“It’s important for us to stay within the flow of the offense and try to get our teammates involved,” Rigsby said. “But the most important thing for us as players is our confidence level. I think we’re pretty confident because we’re playing well right now. We’re getting better every day offensively and defensively. I’m just glad that we’re getting better every day.”
With the confidence level sky-high right now, the near-future is very bright for the Cardinals, especially with the best one-two combo in the Western Slope from Aspen to Grand Junction firing on all cylinders.
Based on the season stats made available on CHSAA’s website, Rigsby and Parker are the only pair of teammates in the entire state of Colorado to be in the top 25 in scoring average. The only other Western Slope member to be on that list is Glenwood’s Cameron Horning.
That’s a pretty special feat for a small school tucked away on the edge of Parachute to have two of the top 25 scorers in a state the size of Colorado. Add the fact that they’re the best duo within the 130-mile distance from Aspen to Grand Junction and it’s easy to see why the Cardinals are special team to watch with the backcourt that they have.
“It’s great hearing that we’re one of the best duos around,” Rigsby said. “John and I have been playing together for a long time. Just to see our hard work paying off and seeing results this year, that’s the fun part about everything. Having a lot of success makes you want to work harder to have continued success.”
The two first met during Parker’s sixth-grade year while playing recreational basketball in New Castle. Since then the two have shared a backcourt with great success, both individually and as a team.
Now, they’re chasing their first 3A WSL regular season title, while also looking to make a run in the state playoffs during their final season together on the hardwood. With the way they’re scoring so far this season, they have a great shot at achieving both of those goals for the Cardinals.
“It’s about getting the ball to the right guys when we’re making plays, whether that’s Tanner, Gunner, Leoray or myself,” Parker said. “It doesn’t matter who’s doing the scoring for us, it’s about making the right plays. We’re doing that so far. Defenses are starting to key in on us, whether that’s double-teaming us or sending extra backside help to us, that really opens that up for everyone. For the last couple of games it’s been really fun and feels natural for us offensively. We’re not keeping track of stats as we’re playing; it’s all just coming naturally, and it’s a lot of fun.
“I just want to win as many games as I can and really make a name for my family at this school. I really want the Parker name to stick in this town.”
With just a few more 20-plus point games, Parker will join his brother, Sam, as a member of the 1,000 career points club at Grand Valley. Sam recorded 1,150 points during his career as a member of the Cardinals. John has a legitimate shot at surpassing that mark this season. He currently sits at 952 career points during his time at Grand Valley.
The Cardinals will take on the Coal Ridge Titans in a pivotal 3A WSL showdown Friday on the road with first place in the league on the line. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Coal Ridge High School.
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Coal Ridge could just pull off a 3A league championship if the Titans take care of their own business and get a little help from afar.