Posted On: 03/9/18 1:58 PM
Coming off of the heels of Rock Canyon’s stand out guard Sam Masten winning Colorado’s Gatorade Player of the Year after a stellar season, we spotlight other players in the state that have worked hard at perfecting their craft. Some contributors are thrust into expanded roles and have seen their numbers grow, others have improved their core skills, here, I give you five players that have stood out with another year under their belt and are candidates for ‘Most Improved Player’.
Ronnie DeGray III – Chaparral
It’s difficult to say a player that averaged 15.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore is also a candidate for most improved, but, Ronnie is that guy. In his soph-junior season he went from one of the top players in his class to one of the top players in the state and his consistency has morphed him into an offensive juggernaut, the big man has grown leaps and bounds across the board, to the point that focusing on one granular aspect of his game is impossible. He’s gone from a player that just has a good feel for putting himself in the position to make a great play to now making the most of his overpowering athleticism. As if that wasn’t enough he’s also become a more disciplined defender around the basket who can do far more than use his quick hands and feet to jump into passing lanes. His play seen Chaparral go from a good team in the league to making a Great 8 appearance. He’s having an incredible junior year that’ll only have him as the top player in the state come senior year.
Tyson Gilbert – Rock Canyon
Plenty about Tyson’s emergence as a top guard in the state is interesting, but perhaps most fascinating is his ability to be able to knock down any shot. Rather it be mid-range, off the dribble, a deep three, or the big shot, he’s a shot maker. Couple that with his improved passing vision and defensive chops, and Tyson has gone from a complementary guard to an elite point guard threat in less than a calendar year. He’s passed, controlled the tempo for each game, defended at a high level and is a fundamentally sound point guard who has the ability to knock it down. Him and Masten have been a wonderful duo to watch this year as they’ve willed Rock Canyon to the Final Four and I’m sure they have aspirations of holding the gold ball. Masten took him state honors for the best player in the state, but, it wouldn’t be able to be done without the help of the guard that gives his all on every possession. He’ll continue his basketball career at Colorado State-Pueblo next year.
Xavier Cooper – George Washington
Xavier went from a player that many questioned if he only thrived as being on a decent team in which he was forced to put up numbers, but with a school transfer, we got to see that is not the case. He’s putting up 12.8 points, 3.4 assists and 4.0 rebounds a game but don’t be fooled by the numbers, he’s excelling in his senior season and has helped lead the Patriots to the Final Four. He started off the year looking to find his own and now that he’s more comfortable he’s a player that defenders must find. The respect defenders must pay him has opened the door for all of his other exploits, making it easier to attack the hoop and find open teammates as he crashes toward the painted area. The development has virtually completed his offensive game and his size helps make him a tough guard for any defender.
Devin Collins – Rangeview
Devin is my pick for the most improved player in the state. He put the work in this off season and seen that play translate onto the court. He went from 2.0 points and 4.9 rebounds in only eight games played on varsity his junior season to being voted 1st team all-conference. Devin is as relentless a rebounder as you’ll get in the state and has seen his numbers grow in his year as a starter to 9.5 points and 8.4 rebounds a game. He’s a great defender with lateral quickness for his size. He’s taken a monumental leap in honestly his lone season on varsity and showed that hard work pays off. He’s an elite rebounder and great pick and roll guy that opens up space for those operating around him. He protects the rim and if high school basketball had advanced metrics he’d be amongst the top in the defensive-rating leaderboards for his effectiveness on that end. He’s a stock riser that went unnoticed into our top-100 players in the state. With improvement in grassroots season I believe this is a player that a college will be lucky to have.
Cade Carroll – Buena Vista
Cade was the leading scorer in all of Colorado high school his senior season as the 6’5 guard lit it up night in and night out. On the year he’s averaging a whopping 31.0 points, 9.7 rebounds a game and as he scored in double figures and had 20+ points in all but two of his games. Cade is a scorer first (see: 45-point outburst against Lamar in January). Not only is he taking on even more responsibility for his team who underachieved last year, but he’s learning how to take the right shots and torment the opposition each night. He’s a player whose dominance is questioned because he’s on a less than stellar team in 3A, but if you take a look at his numbers, you see a player who has seen his game elevate and he’s started to contribute on the defensive end as well as rebound and distribute. He had an incredible high school career with a game that shouldn’t be questioned.