Want to see two of the best high school basketball players in the nation post up against each other? Mark down Jan. 8 on your calendar.
That's when Valor Christian High School's Raegan Beers, a 6-foot-3 senior who's committed to Oregon State, will host Grandview's Lauren Betts, a 6-7 senior who's headed to Stanford.
"It's crazy that we have two of the country's best post players who live just 15 miles away from one another," Valor coach Jessika Caldwell said. "That just doesn't happen, especially in a state of Colorado's size. I expect that Lauren and Raegan will have some more epic battles."
Before they were the two pillars of Class 5A basketball, Beers and Betts were teammates for Ej Hoops Basketball Club when they were growing up. They remain close friends, even though Betts' Grandview teams beat Beers' Valor teams during their freshman and sophomore seasons.
Beers, who missed last season with a knee injury, is ranked by ESPN as the No. 10 player in the nation for the Class of 2022 and the No. 3 post player. Betts, last season's Gatorade Colorado girls basketball player of the year, is considered by many to be not only the top center in the nation but perhaps the best girls high school player in the country.
Betts averaged 17.5 points and 11.0 rebounds for the Wolves last season, leading them to a 17-1 record and a trip to Class 5A semifinals, where they lost Regis Jesuit, 73-69.
"Lauren is like no other player that I have ever been around," Cherry Creek head coach Clint Evans said last spring. "I have game-planned for kids in the past, but Lauren is different because you game plan your defense and your offense around her. Her size is obviously the thing that makes her stand out, but it's what she can do at that size that makes her the most difficult player to go against."
Betts would no doubt love to finish her high school career by winning a state title. But standing in her way is Valor, the defending 5A state champion. The top-seeded Eagles beat No. 2 Regis, 67-42, to claim the championship.
The Eagles went 17-0 and they did it without Beers, who tore the ACL in her right knee in July 2020 while playing for her club team.
"It was challenging at first, watch us winning every game without me," Beers admitted. "It was tough. But now I look at it like it was my opportunity to be the best cheerleader I ever could be. I was dealt a hand and I was going to have to roll with that. Plus, it was a huge blessing because I got to watch some of my best friends win a state title."
Added Caldwell: "Last year, Raegan did an incredible job on the sideline cheering for our team. She got a warning from the officials for celebrating too much."
One of the friends Beers cheered on was guard Kindyll Wetta, now a freshman for the Colorado Buffaloes. Wetta overcame torn ACLs in both of her knees during her high school career.
"What really benefitted Raegan was watching Kindyll go through that, as hard as it was," Caldwell said. "I think that gave Raegan the confidence she needed to get through it."
Beers can vividly remember the moment when she blew out her knee.
"I got a steal and went for a fastbreak layup," she said. "I was by myself and this girl comes to my side. … I landed on my right knee, it hyperextended and it popped. I felt it. I can still relive it in my mind because I felt it and I heard the pop. Not the best memory.
"It was not a fun start to the recovery. But I had some amazing (physical therapists), strength coaches and a bunch of people surrounding me that just loved on me through the nine months I was out. I'm grateful for that."
Beers said she felt back to full strength by this past June, adding that she's overcome the hurdle of fear that often comes with a major injury.
As a sophomore at Valor, Beers averaged 15.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.8 steals, and 2.1 blocks per game. Additionally, she shot 65% from the field.
Asked to provide a scouting report on herself, Beers said: "I've gotten better at being a versatile post player over the years. I feel like I'm a pretty good shooter behind the 3-point line and I think I've got some good moves in the post. I can hit a fadeaway or go hard to the basket."
Her coach gave Beers a thumbs up for her self-assessment but added a few key elements.
"She is one of the best post players that I have seen come through the state of Colorado," Caldwell said. "Because she sees the floor a lot like (Nuggets center Nikola) Jokić does. She involves her teammates, sometimes to the point where I'm like, 'Raegan, you're 2 feet from the basket, just score.'
"And she has some of the best hands. She can catch anything in her vicinity. She has a great touch, not only in receiving but in finishing."
Perhaps Beers' best quality is her feel for the game.
"She has a very high basketball I.Q.," Caldwell said. "She can communicate with her teammates in a remarkable way."
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