Chris Allen looks at home on the basketball court. He's 6 feet, 4 inches of long and lean.
He steps into the fray with confidence, rebounding, shooting, defending. And he's got a winning attitude. Any coach would dream of having a guy like Allen on their team.
But to Allen, a junior who spent most of the season on junior varsity or on the bench, the court is still fairly unfamiliar territory. Prior to last November, Allen had never played a basketball game.
"I love football, that's my passion," said Allen, a starting wide receiver for the Bulldogs' football team. "We lost in the state semifinals... I wanted to work as hard as I could to get better so we could, hopefully, get farther next year." He saw basketball as a way to improve his performance on the football field.
Turns out he's a natural, and he loves the sport.
Allen was disappointed that Hotchkiss only had one game last week. He scored nine points in Friday's 73-32 win over Vail Mountain. "I would rather have two games," said Allen. "It's fun to play. I wish we could play all the time."
"He's made tremendous progress," said head coach Kyle Crowder. "Every single week he's getting stronger. He's getting to understand the game."
"I never really had a passion for it," said Allen, who moved to Hotchkiss after attending Ken-Caryl Middle School in Littleton. "I lived in the big city. In a small school you're contributing to your school more. In a big school I wasn't necessarily a key factor." Now that he's adjusted to the small-school feel, he's finding that he has a big presence.
"I think I'm improving a lot, but I think I've got a long way to go," said Allen.
Hotchkiss will lose six seniors this year, and Crowder is eyeing Allen as a key player on both sides of the court next season. "We're going to spend a lot of time this summer and he's going to be a dominator next year. He's going to be unstoppable," said Crowder. For now, "He's kind of that X-factor for us... He's going to start getting a little bit more time (in the coming weeks).
"He just needs to turn and shoot over the top. He needs to be a little more physical in his play in the post."
Crowder said he'd like to give Allen more time with the starters. "He really does play better with (starting seniors Taylor) Schreiner and Mason (Oxford) and those guys on the floor. I want to get him in the rotation more."
With 11 points, Cody Bartlett was Friday's lead scorer. Eight players scored five or more points, with Oxford and Schreiner each scoring 10. Josh Hardin and River Panish added nine, Tye Bayles had six, Andrew Tiedeman five, and freshman Clayton Oxford scored four second-half points. Hotchkiss held Vail Mountain to single-digit scoring in the first three quarters.
"Games like this, we use to get better, we execute some different sets," said Crowder. "You can't get too much out of this game."
The Bulldogs have a 9-5 overall record. At 3-3, they are currently in sixth place in 2A Western Slope League play and are favored to win this week's games, at home against Plateau Valley (1-3, 4-6) on Friday and at DeBeque Saturday.
But upcoming games against No. 3 Meeker, No. 2 Rangely, and Paonia, which upset No. 4 Vail Christian last Friday, won't be practice games.
Allen will get as much court time as possible in the final games before playoffs, said Crowder. Allen said he's working on defense, and hopes to up his scoring. And yes, he'd like to start before the season ends. "I'm not scoring as many points as I want," said Allen. "I want to be a big part of this team."blog comments powered by Disqus