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Vail Christian ready for new league, gym

VCBB A.J. Burgess PU 2-9-08
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EDWARDS, Colorado ” Try this on for size ” Vail Christian boys basketball is guard-oriented.

It’s just one of several changes coming to Edwards for 2008-09.

The Saints have a new gym, a new league and new style of play for the season, which starts Dec. 2 at Hayden.

“Change is a good thing, and we’ve got a lot of change going on,” said coach Sheldon Kuhns, who is a constant for Vail Christian, beginning his ninth year at the helm of the program.

Quickly, please

The Saints dabbled with an up-tempo game last season, but the recent years have had a distinctly different game plan. Vail Christian was unquestionably a post-oriented team with big men Caleb Pearson, Class of 2007, and Jaryd Francis, who graduated last spring.

What’s more, guards, and in particular at the point, have not been the Saints’ strength. But this year, Will Parker and A.J. Burgess are seniors and in charge of the backcourt.

“It’s definitely nice,” Burgess said. “We’re going to have a quicker-paced game. We’re able to move up the court faster.”

Parker brings two years of experience at point guard and has blossomed in the role. Burgess has a nice 3-point touch and is quick in transition. This picture gets even brighter when Eliot Ristow hopefully returns in January from a broken leg during football season. Expect Burgess to slide over to small forward when Ristow comes back into the shooting-guard role.

“We’re not as big as we have been,” Kuhns said. “We’re definitely more guard-oriented and that’s a good thing. We want to play more up-tempo, but our bench is shorter than it’s been. We’re going to run and push the pace, but we have to be smart about when we run.”

Look for Chris Schmidt and Larry Cavauagh in the paint. Kieran Hurtt definitely adds some size as a swing man. Cody Bakken, Devon Christie, Granger Moch and Fernando Hernandez are all coming off the bench.

Moving on up

As with volleyball in the fall, the Saints are joining the 2A Slope, also known as District 5. The Saints have anticipated the transition having played teams like Meeker, Plateau Valley, Hayden and Soroco in past years, mostly with success with the exception of Meeker.

Former 1A Mountain League rivals North Park and DeBeque are also joining the 2A Slope, so familiar faces are on the schedule. But teams like Paonia (the state runner-up last year), Rangely, West Grand and Meeker should prove a challenge for the Saints.

“It a good league that’s had a team in the state finals the last three years,” Kuhns said. “We’ve had some success against some of these teams in the past. Now we don’t have to travel to Ouray, Crested Butte and Ridgway, which is great. We’re excited about our new league.”

And everyone associated with Saints basketball is excited about playing in the school’s new gym. Soroco gets the honor on Dec. 13 as Vail Christian opens the gym up for hoops, but Vail Christian is already enjoying the end of its nomadic existence in the preseason.

“It’s a great feeling. I feel blessed that my senior class is the first to get in there,” Burgess said. “It feels stationary. We know where practice is going to be. We feel settled in.”

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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