George Mikan started a trend in the 1950s that is rarely seen today at any level of basketball, including boys and girls high school action.
Mikan, a 6-foot-10 center who dominated with his scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking skills, paved the way for other legendary players like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. Those players could govern play in the paint defensively and offensively with dunks, sky hooks and short, fall-away jumpers.
They were back-to-the-basket players whose existence in modern basketball is limited because the game now demands that all players be able to handle the ball, rebound, play defense and hit mid-range and 3-point jumpers. In the NBA, superstars like Russell Westbrook and LeBron James epitomize this.
“In today’s world, versatility is premium,” Highlands Ranch boys coach Mike Gibbs said. “Unless you are a true point guard because everybody has a spot on their team for a point guard.”
Jake Belknapp is a 6-8 senior who is listed as a center, forward and power forward for Mountain Vista’s fast-paced boys team.
“You can’t just play one position,” Belknapp said. “Like if you’re a post player and just score inside or if you’re just a shooter. You have to have an all-around game.”
Lakewood’s girls team has junior twin sisters Camilla and Kira Emsbo, who are both 6-4 forwards.
“We know when we get to college there will be girls as tall and even taller than we are, so we have to work to be better all-around players both on defense and offense,” Camill said. “My sister and I have been working to improve our outside shooting. Personally, I like taking outside shots and it is fun to shoot 3-pointers.”
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