Three returning starters a boost for 2003 Rifle boys

Phil Sandoval

Is the 2003-04 boys basketball season a rebuilding year for Rifle? Definitely not.

With three returning starters back off last year’s Class 4A regular season Western Slope League champion club, the Bears have the talent to be a force in the WSL again this season.

Jim Owens, a 6-foot, 3-inch senior, fills the void in the post created by Ryan Shideler’s departure to Dixie (Utah) College.

Guards Troy Weiss, a 6-foot senior and 5-10 junior Adam Krick also return from last year’s 15-8 state playoff team.

Krick, however, could be limited in the pre-holiday portion of Rifle’s schedule because of an ankle sprain.

The returning lettermen give Rifle a strong nucleus from which to build, and second-year coach Chris Lowther is pleased about what he’s seen from the newcomers at practice.

“These guys are all gym rats,” the coach said. “Pure basketball skill is our strength. They all handle and shoot the ball well, and the kids know our system better than last year.”

Lowther said that the nine players will be in the Bears’ primary playing rotation.

Assisting Owens in the front court are 6-4 senior Aaron Jewell and 6-7 Chris Jones, who’s moved up to the varsity from the Bear JV’s.

Four other players, all in the 6-foot to 6-2 range, are slotted as guards.

Junior Ryan Muldoon, a sub last year, should see increased playing time this season. Travis Jensen, also a junior, has earned a varsity spot, as has his JV teammate Jesse Harris.

Another newcomer to the basketball team is soccer player Stewart Stapleton.

While the Bears look solid, Lowther expects every league game to be tough.

“The league is evenly matched and everybody is strong,” said Lowther.

Teams the coach mentioned as contenders for the league title include Glenwood Springs, Steamboat and Moffat County.

The Bears open the year on Dec. 2 at Grand Junction.

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