Coach John Anderson leads the No. 1-ranked Golden boys basketball team into the 2017-18 season starting on Thursday with the D'Evelyn/Golden Preview Classic.
Kyle Newman, The Denver Post
Coach John Anderson leads the No. 1-ranked Golden boys basketball team into the 2017-18 season starting on Thursday with the D’Evelyn/Golden Preview Classic.

Denver Post preps editor Kyle Newman caught up with Golden boys basketball coach John Anderson to discuss the expectations for the Class 4A preseason No. 1 Demons, how star senior Adam Thistlewood improved in the offseason and more.

Q: How has your centerpiece from last season, 6-foot-7 guard and Drake commit Adam Thistlewood, improved himself from 2016-17 when he averaged 18.9 points per game?

A: First of all, his work ethic is second to none, and he’s realized that to take that next step, he’s put a focus on finishing strong at the rim. Where last year he’d maybe settle for a fadeaway or a pull-up jumper, with his length, he’s getting better at going to the rim. He’s also focused on being a better distributor right now, because he’s definitely special, but if we’re going to be a championship-quality team it can’t be a one-man show.

And at the defensive end, he has to be aggressive, because with that size — even though he’s a guard — he’s going to have to protect the paint for us a lot.

Q: With Thistlewood likely to draw lots of double teams, is the onus going to be on seniors Joe Madsen, Jack Moore and Riley Stoner to really step up in the scoring department?

A: Absolutely. Joe can score on his own, too, because we can’t just be a perimeter-oriented team. We’ve got some good guards but we’ve got to get the ball down to Joe, and Riley does all the dirty work for us by grinding and rebounding. He’ll be out until after Christmas (due to a football injury), so the other guys have to step up even more, like Moore and senior Jack McLaughlin. Both of those guys are pretty good shooters who are going to get some looks if they can work off of Adam.

Q: What’s the expectation for this team this season after the playoff showing last year and considering all the talent you have back?

A: Our expectation is to take the next step. We definitely had an up-and-down year last year, finishing fourth in our league, and we got a fortunate seeding due to the RPI so were able to get to the semifinals. I wasn’t surprised by our tournament run last year — I think a lot of people were — but people aren’t going to be surprised anymore.

We’re going to have to finish tough games. Since I’ve been here, we’ve been to the semifinals three times and have not played on Saturday night yet. That’s definitely the next step and it’s the long-term goal, but for now we’ve got to play well in December and just learn who we are.

Q: Who else do you like in Class 4A as an early championship frontrunner?

A: Both Pueblo schools, South and West; Lewis-Palmer; Valor, because (Troy Pachner) is a great coach and they’re reloading a little bit but they’ll definitely be there; and I like D’Evelyn and Evergreen out of the Jeffco League, also.

Q: What does the mindset have to be for your team to reclaim the Jeffco League title, which you relinquished last season after back-to-back crowns?

A: We’ll have a target on us, obviously. And even though we’re pretty darn good, we’re not good enough just to show up against anybody in our league, because they have all also improved. We don’t play enough games to just show up and go through the motions, and our kids haven’t shown that tendency, which is what I like about them.

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