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Wasson big man starts over, takes advantage of last shot in school's final hurrah
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Larenz Stalcup stood up, all 6-foot-10 of him, looked around the gym that he used to call home and smiled. He had reason to. He found a home, just for a year, with the Wasson boys’ basketball team.
“That’s my boy,” Thunderbirds senior Richie Perea said. “After he got in a little bit of trouble, no one wanted to show him support, except for his family. I wanted to help him a little bit. I’ve been in his ear about coming to Wasson. He sure made a good decision.”
For three years at Doherty, Stalcup lingered in obscurity and didn’t nearly maximize his potential. He managed just 31 points during his sophomore year. Then he fell into a world of marijuana, alcohol and run-ins with the law. Basketball was the least of his concerns.
“I was out of the game, way out of it,” Stalcup said. “I made some bad decisions, and I’ve learned from them. I’m moving on to a better life.”
He has found it at Wasson, which practiced Friday in Doherty’s large gym in an attempt to acclimatize to similar conditions to be encountered at 10:45 a.m. Saturday when the Thunderbirds (24-1) play Thomas Jefferson (18-7) in the cavernous Denver Coliseum in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.
“I finally woke up and listened,” Stalcup said. “Here I am. I’m so blessed and fortunate to be playing for Wasson and helping the team. If I wouldn’t have changed my ways, there’s no way I’d be standing here right now.”
Wasson remains standing strong, on one final playoff voyage before the school officially shuts down at the end of the school year. Riding the state’s longest boys' winning streak (19 games) out of town, to a Denver-area restaurant and to a hotel for the night, the T-Birds kept their focus on a longtime dream.
For a handful, the dream started as middle school players on a touring club team. Some drifted away to different high schools but stayed in touch. With Wasson’s days seemingly numbered, longtime friends became teammates again for old time’s sake.
Perea remembers the feeling of relief in 2009 when Wasson escaped the chopping block, given a five-year reprieve before District 11 would re-evaluate its status.
That call came a year early.
“I didn’t see it coming,” Perea said. “Our goal was to win state that fourth year. If we win state, how are they going to shut the school down? Now they are, so we’ve really got to make a statement.”
That statement has been delivered through terrifying full-court presses and in-your-face defense that turns steals into easy buckets on the other end. And steady guard play from Perea, the unquestioned floor leader, creates open jumpers from fellow shooting guards DJ Hanes – among the state’s leaders in scoring at 23.4 points per game – and Dominic Garcia, averaging 14.4 points himself.
With Stalcup, the T-Birds finally have balance unlike previous years when they were one-dimensional and relegated to spectators by early March.
“He’s battled through a lot of things, and due to his commitment, he’s done a good job for us,” Thunderbirds coach Damion Copeland said. “To me, basketball has always been my life. I always take the things I’ve learned in basketball and apply them into being a man. Sports builds character. It can also deplete character.”