Home / World News / Rock Canyon point guard Sam Masten talks top-ranked Jaguars, prospect of another pet mascot and more

Rock Canyon point guard Sam Masten talks top-ranked Jaguars, prospect of another pet mascot and more

Denver Post preps editor Kyle Newman caught up with Rock Canyon senior point guard Sam Masten to discuss the Class 5A No. 1 Jaguars, the importance of the team’s role players, the prospect of another pet mascot and much more.

Q: Quick side note before we get to talking hoops — how’s the track career going for your sister, Riley Masten, who took runner-up in the 5A high jump as a freshman in the spring?

A: She’s doing it a lot more competitively this year, and she’s been doing a lot of club stuff. Her college interest has been going up — we’ve been getting a lot of letters to the house, and she’s only a sophomore. She’ll figure it out her junior or senior year, and she’ll start taking some visits soon.

For her, it’s a matter of if she wants to do it or not — last year she had only been doing high jump for about four months before the high school season, and she obviously had a really good year. That was a big confidence boost for her.

Q: On the court, your team is clicking with a 9-0 record so far. That includes winning the Clash on the Coast tournament in California right before the break, where you dominated in three of your four wins. What happened out there?

A: That tournament just really helped us come together as a team. In different games, different guys stepped up, and everybody ended up playing a huge part in the tournament. Defensively, we locked in and played well, and offensively we were clicking — everyone was hitting shots, we were sharing the ball, and it was the way Coach (Kent) Grams wants us to play.

We had shown flashes of it the first five games, and it started to click in California — now we have to carry that on into the second half back in Colorado.

Q: How has your relationship with fellow senior guard Tyson Gilbert, a CSU-Pueblo commit, evolved since he transferred to Rock Canyon before last school year?

A: Last year he came in midway through the season, and that’s always tough when you add a new piece halfway through. We did well with it, and then by playing all throughout the spring and the fall together — and playing together at the rec all the time — our chemistry continues to get better, because we’ve known each other for a long time. This year it’s showing how well we play off each other, because we counter each other’s strengths.

Q: What’s Grams like as a coach and how has he contributed to the rise of the program?

A: He’s probably the best guy I’ve ever seen in terms of getting the most out of each individual player. However he does that — whether it’s being tough on someone, on loving up on someone — he connects with guys. Plus our practices have been a lot more intense this year than my other three years in the program.

Last year, I don’t want to say we surprised ourselves, but we proved to ourselves that we could play with the best. We don’t want to feel that feeling again of losing in the Final Four, and that motivates us, and Coach Grams holds us to that standard every day in the gym.

Q: What can you say about the play of guys inside, especially 6-foot-6 senior small forwards Nick Janedis and Blake Williams as well as 6-foot-8 senior center Joe Bryson?

A: They’ve been huge. Last year, those guys probably didn’t have as big of roles as they would’ve liked, I think, because we had so many senior leaders and guys who have been in the program for a while. This year, they came in and had an opportunity, and they made the most of it.

They’re total team guys who will do whatever they have to do for us to win, whether it’s scoring a bunch some nights or getting a bunch of rebounds another.

Q: What is it about this program, where guys consistently buy into the overall team concept at the expense of their own stats, playing time, etc.?

A: Over the years, guys have seen the success we’ve had — the continuous buildup of our wins each season and how far we’ve made it in the playoffs. A huge part of that was because of the role players and the buy-in we had from other players who came off the bench. We’ve got more than one sixth man, and guys know how much that factor contributes to our success.

Q: You’ve beat some good teams in state, some good teams out of state. But if you had to nitpick your perfect start, what’s your kryptonite? What are you doing right now that’s going to get you beat in the playoffs?

A: Our free throw shooting has to be tightened up — I’ve been struggling there, and a couple of other guys have too.

And also, we have to work on closing out games, taking care of the ball and getting rebounds. Sometimes teams have beaten us up on the glass, and we’ve gotten flustered a little bit at times by presses. We’ve done a good job of hanging on to leads, but we have to keep working on it because teams are going to be really athletic late in the tournament and they can easily erase deficits.

Q: Last year you guys had Kirby the pet frog hopping around the locker room, and he was a good luck charm of sorts en route to your Final Four run. Any new pet mascots this year?

A: Not yet. Kirby was a midseason addition last year, so we’ll probably go to the pet store here in a couple weeks to see if we can find one. Coach Grams already gave us a list of six animals that aren’t allowed. He’s not a big snake guy, so that’s on the list.

It’ll probably be the seniors that go and get it, because you know, you’ve got to be 18 to buy a pet. We’ll have to figure it out.

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