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Titans have come a long way in a short time

Dale Shrull
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent
ALL |

Alex Klein hustles to the other end of the court and takes his spot in the paint.

He waits, watches, holds his ground when the husky opposing center tries to muscle him out of the way.

Colorado Academy’s 6-foot-6 senior David Jones snags a pass, pivots and goes up strong.



Denied! Klein’s huge stuff block on Jones leads to a key 3-point shot by teammate Nathan Terrin to put the Titans up by nine in the third quarter.

At 6-foot-8-inches tall, Klein towers over his teammates. After the 58-42 victory, standing in a crowd of well-wishers, he’s not hard to spot. He has an easy smile and a humble tone when he speaks.



He talks about his teammates and the importance of defense and unselfish play. He’s a leader. He leads by example.

Later in the third, Jones powers into Klein sending him crashing to the floor. Klein’s attempt to draw the charge was rejected by the referee. Klein bounced up unfazed by the play or the call.

One just needs to look back a couple of years to see why you might cringe at seeing Klein knocked to the hard court.

Klein brings toughness to the court. And that means mental toughness too.

The date was July 4, 2006. That’s the day a tragic accident claimed the life of Zach Schwartz, a Coal Ridge basketball teammate.

Klein was one of four kids in the vehicle that day. He suffered a broken back. For nearly a week he was in a Grand Junction hospital in both physical and mental agony. There was one cracked vertebra and one crushed vertebra.

Klein was released from the hospital and attended Zach’s funeral.

A painful memory for a young man. A memory that stays with him.

“It’s definitely made me stronger, Klein says. “I think it’s made our whole team stronger ” losing our friend.”

Thinking back to his broken back, Klein shakes his head at what he and his teammate’s have accomplished.

“I didn’t think it was possible,” Klein says about making the Great 8 and him playing a key role.

Now as the confident senior, Klein is relishing his time on the court and he’s now a force behind the Titans success and how they might do when they open play on Thursday in Fort Collins.

Having a towering defensive force in the paint gives the Titans such an advantage. They can play tougher defense away from the paint, and if someone gets into the lane, Klein is ready to make things tough.

Harvey has no worries about opposing big men.

“It doesn’t matter if we face teams with talented big guys because I know we’ve got Alex, and Alex is the man.”

A man who had to grow up a little faster because of a tragic accident. A man who is the defensive stopper for the Titans. A man who won’t ever forget a friend named Zach and a special group of teammates who are headed to the final eight.

A group of Titans who are having the time of their lives. And are just three wins away from a state title.

Mr. Klein and the Titans have come a long way in a short time.

It’s hard to believe that Coal Ridge High School opened in 2005. And now they have a shot at a Class 3A state title.

Klein’s play at the defensive end of the floor is what makes the Titans go.

“My role in the team is to get people fired up by making good plays on defense like blocked shots, and that usually gets our offense going. That’s the way it’s been all year. The offense is fueled by the defense.”

Junior point guard Andy Smedra agrees: ” We like to get our offense going from good defense. And Alex makes that happen so much.”

Klein points to all his teammates when he says defense is the key.

Klein only scored six points in the game but he created more havoc than a hurricane with his play in the paint. Every Mustang that ventured into the lane knew there was a force that wouldn’t allow easy baskets. He blocked shots, altered shots and forced turnovers.

It’s difficult to imagine what it’s like to lose a friend to a tragic accident, especially at such a young age.

What’s not difficult to see is Klein’s maturity. He’s grown into a strong player and leader. He has a “Z” tattoo on his right shoulder to remind him of his friend Zach.

But he doesn’t need that reminder. He won’t forget July 4, 2006. A sad day.

And he won’t soon forget Saturday. A fun day.

It’s been a difficult couple of years for Coal Ridge. There was the accident, then there was an incident with a former head coach, who was let go last year.

Head coach Paul Harvey had a simple goal when he took over: “My main goal was to have a positive, drama-free basketball season, and I think we’ve achieved that. They’ve gone through a lot and I wanted them to just play basketball. We’ve created a positive climate and they’ve fed off of it. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Fun ” that’s what basketball is about. Saturday offered lots of fun, and now these Titans have a shot at a state championship.

As a Silt resident and former assistant coach with Grand Valley, Harvey also remembers the accident.

“I know the adversity that Alex and really the whole team has gone through,” he says. “It’s really been a pleasure to work with these guys because they work so hard, and I wanted them to experience state because they deserve it so much.”

Klein was back on the court just six months and one day after the accident. But as a lanky sophomore he still needed work and experience.


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