Even last year, when the Denver Nuggets were still an awful mess and the departed Juwan Howard was their only scoring threat, NBA sharpies noticed that coach Jeff Bzdelik was bringing some fierce new attitude and commitment to one of the league's worst teams. This season, the former Miami assistant not only has players with real game -- rookie Carmelo Anthony, a healthy Marcus Camby, a renewed Andre Miller and inspirational leader Earl Boykins, among others -- but he's gotten them to buy into a system built on relentless speed and dogged hard work. Anthony may be the team's future, but the guy they call Buzz is its vivid present. If the Nugs don't make the playoffs this year, it will be a big disappointment, but the mood on Chopper Circle is buoyant, thanks to a head coach with an unshakable belief that all things are possible -- especially when you're wearing a new color scheme of baby blue and Melo Yellow.
Even last year, when the Denver Nuggets were still an awful mess and the departed Juwan Howard was their only scoring threat, NBA sharpies noticed that coach Jeff Bzdelik was bringing some fierce new attitude and commitment to one of the league's worst teams. This season, the former Miami assistant not only has players with real game -- rookie Carmelo Anthony, a healthy Marcus Camby, a renewed Andre Miller and inspirational leader Earl Boykins, among others -- but he's gotten them to buy into a system built on relentless speed and dogged hard work. Anthony may be the team's future, but the guy they call Buzz is its vivid present. If the Nugs don't make the playoffs this year, it will be a big disappointment, but the mood on Chopper Circle is buoyant, thanks to a head coach with an unshakable belief that all things are possible -- especially when you're wearing a new color scheme of baby blue and Melo Yellow.


Call it the House That Hanzlik Built. Ex-Nugget Bill Hanzlik, who co-founded the Gold Crown Foundation in 1986, is justly proud of the Gold Crown Fieldhouse, which opened last fall in Lakewood. Most weekends, its six gyms runneth over with Gold Crown youth basketball teams. The courts are also available to those hardcourt-starved squads that don't have anywhere to practice, thanks to shortsighted budget-cutting by school boards. Fat kids? Not here.
Call it the House That Hanzlik Built. Ex-Nugget Bill Hanzlik, who co-founded the Gold Crown Foundation in 1986, is justly proud of the Gold Crown Fieldhouse, which opened last fall in Lakewood. Most weekends, its six gyms runneth over with Gold Crown youth basketball teams. The courts are also available to those hardcourt-starved squads that don't have anywhere to practice, thanks to shortsighted budget-cutting by school boards. Fat kids? Not here.


When the Police Athletic League sixth-grade championship series was played recently at the Hiawatha Davis rec center, the Colorado Hawks were guaranteed a winner. That's because the two finalists were the Hawks' fifth- and sixth-grade teams. Since George Williams started the Denver-based nonprofit in 1997, the traveling youth hoopsters -- whose players range in age from ten to seventeen -- have set the standard for local competition. Organizers say that five of the top ten scorers in this year's 5A boys' category are affiliated with the club, and the teams' reputation extends well beyond state lines. Now, if only the Hawks (which stands for "Hard At Work Kids") had their own gym . . .
When the Police Athletic League sixth-grade championship series was played recently at the Hiawatha Davis rec center, the Colorado Hawks were guaranteed a winner. That's because the two finalists were the Hawks' fifth- and sixth-grade teams. Since George Williams started the Denver-based nonprofit in 1997, the traveling youth hoopsters -- whose players range in age from ten to seventeen -- have set the standard for local competition. Organizers say that five of the top ten scorers in this year's 5A boys' category are affiliated with the club, and the teams' reputation extends well beyond state lines. Now, if only the Hawks (which stands for "Hard At Work Kids") had their own gym . . .


Best Athletic Performance -- High School

Kyle Sand

It's pretty difficult to improve on perfection, so Arvada West senior wrestler Kyle Sand earns this year's designation as best high school jock. All the shaggy-headed Sand did is finish his wrestling career without once losing a match: 125-0, with four state titles, the last one at 189 pounds. Anyone who knows anything about wrestling -- where a momentary lapse in concentration or effort can land you on your back -- will attest to what an astonishing feat Sand has accomplished. In fact, when Sand bested his final opponent at the state championships last month, he became the first Colorado schoolboy ever -- and the 35th in the country -- to finish undefeated with four titles.

Best Athletic Performance -- High School

Kyle Sand

It's pretty difficult to improve on perfection, so Arvada West senior wrestler Kyle Sand earns this year's designation as best high school jock. All the shaggy-headed Sand did is finish his wrestling career without once losing a match: 125-0, with four state titles, the last one at 189 pounds. Anyone who knows anything about wrestling -- where a momentary lapse in concentration or effort can land you on your back -- will attest to what an astonishing feat Sand has accomplished. In fact, when Sand bested his final opponent at the state championships last month, he became the first Colorado schoolboy ever -- and the 35th in the country -- to finish undefeated with four titles.


Now that Ed McCaffrey has retired and Shannon Sharpe could well spend next season with his mouth in front of a microphone, the Broncos' receiving corps will be anchored by tireless team leader Rod Smith, the ten-year veteran out of Missouri Southern who holds Broncos franchise records for career receiving yards and touchdown catches. Come to think of it, he's always the anchor. A master of the downfield double move, this winner of two Super Bowl rings in the John Elway glory years remains one of the NFL's craftiest receivers. Woe unto the cornerback who loses track of Smith on third and seven, and woe unto any teammate who gives less than his best on Sunday afternoon. The ultimate professional, Smith was voted the Broncos' offensive captain last season, and quarterback Jake Plummer, still trying to get his bearings in Shanny Land, will be delighted to see Number 80 in the huddle again this year.
Now that Ed McCaffrey has retired and Shannon Sharpe could well spend next season with his mouth in front of a microphone, the Broncos' receiving corps will be anchored by tireless team leader Rod Smith, the ten-year veteran out of Missouri Southern who holds Broncos franchise records for career receiving yards and touchdown catches. Come to think of it, he's always the anchor. A master of the downfield double move, this winner of two Super Bowl rings in the John Elway glory years remains one of the NFL's craftiest receivers. Woe unto the cornerback who loses track of Smith on third and seven, and woe unto any teammate who gives less than his best on Sunday afternoon. The ultimate professional, Smith was voted the Broncos' offensive captain last season, and quarterback Jake Plummer, still trying to get his bearings in Shanny Land, will be delighted to see Number 80 in the huddle again this year.


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