Cool-hand Kurt guided Cougars

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By Brian Forbes

Kurt Dieter never broke anyone’s ankles this season with a nasty crossover dribble. If he did, he’s not telling anyone about it.

He doesn’t bomb fadeaway 3-pointers and has yet to make a YouTube video of himself posterizing an opponent with a monster dunk.

The Evergreen senior is not blazingly fast, doesn’t jump out of the gym and didn’t make anyone’s short list of hyped prospects this year.

But when has all that ever been the sole judge of true talent?

For all the things Dieter wasn’t this season, he did have this going for him – he played the game with solid fundamentals, calculated cool and an effort as unchanging as an Arizona summer.

For that, the 6-feet-2 Dieter was named the Player of the Year of the first-ever Evergreen Newspapers’ boys basketball team. Beyond the modest 14.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game was a strong – and long-armed – defender who could create his own shot, bury the mid-range jumper and work within coach Scott Haebe’s disciplined offense.

In the highs and lows of prep basketball, Dieter was as constant as the North Star for the Cougars. He brought his game every night, no questions asked.

“He’s got an incredible feel for the game,” Haebe said. “He’s smart and savvy, and he used that to his advantage.”

Behind Dieter, the balanced and deeper-than-usual Cougars went 17-6 during the regular season and were given a tough No. 5 seed in the Class 4A Ron Shavlik Region of the state tournament.

The Cougars ripped 12th-seeded Delta 71-41 in the first round before losing 66-57 to No. 4 Thomas Jefferson in a matchup that probably should not have come any time before the Sweet 16.

“Most of us have been playing for coach Haebe since sixth grade,” Dieter said. “We know the system like the back of our hands.”

To the uninitiated, Haebe’s system is a Princeton-style half-court set filled with patient motion, backdoor cuts and 3-point shooting.

Dieter, however, was never the bomber this season. With guard Ryan Haebe, Chris Lemasters and substitute Chris Hudak, the Cougars had enough gunners to allow Dieter to play to his strengths – the lost art of the mid-range jump shot.

“I was struggling to shoot from the outside my sophomore and junior year and I had to have a new part of my game,” Dieter said of his range.

But Dieter was also strong inside, which caught even his coach off guard. Dieter would often penetrate on the baseline, appear to get stopped around the low post, seemingly look for a pass and then go up for a shot.

“He’s very wily,” Scott Haebe said. “He’d be inside and all of sudden he’d go up and be shooting for a 3-point play.”

The Cougars endured close losses to Cheyenne Mountain (70-69) and Mountain Vista (62-59) early in the season, a six-point defeat to eventual state semifinalist Lewis-Palmer, in addition to gut-wrenching overtime losses to Jefferson County League opponents Golden and Wheat Ridge.

“We were really down in the drain after those two games,” Dieter said.

But the Cougars stayed together and rattled off nine consecutive victories, including a thundering 84-47 victory over rival Conifer and a 59-52 revenge win over D’Evelyn.

Dieter twice scored 21 points this season in a nonleague win over Denver West and that loss to Wheat Ridge. In those games, Dieter never broke anyone’s ankles, connected on a barrage or 3-pointers or dunked on someone’s head. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t arguably the most consistent player on the court.