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Colorado extends $11.3 million in tax incentives to four companies

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Colorado extends $11.3 million in tax incentives to four companies

The Colorado Economic Development Commission on Thursday morning approved $11.3 million worth of job growth incentive tax credits to four companies that are considering the creation of 610 jobs over the next eight years in the state.

The largest of the awards, worth up to $7.7 million, went to a foreign maker of medical devices and health care technology products that was given the code name Project Tempus to protect its identity. The company is looking to set up a North American headquarters as well as a global headquarters for one of its subsidiaries.

The company told the state that it is looking to create 300 jobs at an average annual wage of $154,957, double the average annual wage in Denver. The positions are in management, administration, marketing and finance.

“Our challenge right now is that we have team members residing in the U.S. We are really trying to find a North American headquarters. We want to bring together several hundred people,” said a representative for the company, which is also looking at locations in Texas and New Jersey.

Project Linin, an early-stage company working on a molecular detection technology that can detect foodborne pathogens rapidly, received approval for $1.4 million in credits in return for the creation of 144 net new jobs paying an average annual wage of $124,573.

The jobs will include microbiologists, production and test engineers, sales and marketing and managers. The company, currently based in California, is considering metro Denver, Austin or the Bay Area for a headquarters, and research and development and production facilities.

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Nuggets Journal: How Spurs coach Gregg Popovich paved the way for Michael Malone

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Nuggets Journal: How Spurs coach Gregg Popovich paved the way for Michael Malone

Without an endorsement from legendary Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, Nuggets coach Michael Malone wouldn’t be in the position he’s in, as the fifth-longest tenured coach in the NBA.

Their relationship began at an NBA-run Basketball Without Borders camp in Argentina in 2005. There, over numerous bottles of wine, Malone worked his way into Popovich’s orbit.

Pop’s first impression of Malone?

“I just felt very quickly when I got to first meet him, we were in Argentina of all places,” Popovich said. “I just had a feeling about the guy. He had a quick knowledge of the game, understood people and had a real competitive spirit about him, that kind of thing. The friendship just kind of grew.”

When former San Antonio assistant Mike Brown got the job in Cleveland, it was Popovich who paved Malone’s path there. By virtue of LeBron James, who maintains a good relationship with Denver’s head coach to this day, Malone was thrust into a championship race on an annual basis.

“That five years in Cleveland allowed me to be seen in a different light because of the success that we had,” Malone said. But once James left for Miami, Malone needed another favor from the legendary Spurs coach.

He helped him land on his feet as an assistant in New Orleans with Monty Williams.

“Once you throw your lot in with somebody like that, it’s satisfying to continue to try to help in any way you can,” Popovich said. “People have helped me along the way, so why not return the favor to other people? Thrilled for his success. He’s only going to have more.”

Before Malone settled in Denver, he was the head coach in Sacramento for parts of two tumultuous seasons. Again, Popovich was there for him.

“And through all that when I was going through a tough time in Sacramento, I could call up Coach Pop and use him as a soundingboard,” Malone said. “And the best thing about it is, like my father, he was never going to tell me what I wanted to hear, he was going to tell me the truth and what I needed to hear.”

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How private basketball prep schools in Colorado are redefining athlete education: “We’re gonna do what’s best for kids”

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How private basketball prep schools in Colorado are redefining athlete education: “We’re gonna do what’s best for kids”

Gold light from the morning sun floods the windows of a historic building where the most talented prep basketball team in Colorado gathers for practice.

Back in the early 1970s, the American Basketball Association’s Denver Rockets practiced inside this small brick gymnasium beneath a gorgeous wood cathedral ceiling. Today, in southwest Denver’s Athmar Park neighborhood, its once-faded red exterior has a fresh coat of black paint to make large white letters pop at the entrance: DENVER PREP ACADEMY.

The glass front door is open. Step into a gym of modern hoop dreams.

It’s impossible to miss Assane Diop and Baye Fall — lanky, athletic dunkers with shooting range — who grew up in Senegal, moved to Colorado for a better education, and led their respective high schools (Belleview Christian and Lutheran) to state titles this past spring. They have college scholarship offers to become teammates at Auburn, CU, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky and Texas A&M. The list keeps growing.

“From coaches to players, it is the highest level of basketball I’ve seen,” said Diop, a 6-foot-10 forward and the 31st-ranked prospect nationally for the Class of 2023, according to 247Sports. “I feel we belong together. Also, they demand more from me off the court. … Playing with Baye makes me feel more confident that my back is always covered.”

Yet the next step of their basketball journey comes with inherent risk. Fall and Diop transferred from a traditional high school experience to embrace the newest wave of athlete education to hit Colorado — private schools offering specialized basketball training against elite competition.

The prep school experience is designed to mimic college, with players often living on campus. Class time is scheduled around early morning practice, afternoon workouts and games played on national circuits to maximize exposure. Long popular on the East Coast, but absent from Colorado before 2019, there are now three emerging in-state programs that offer a CHSAA alternative for boys basketball: Colorado Prep, Denver Prep Academy and Rocky Mountain Sports Academy.

“These kids are very impressionable and want to market themselves in the best way possible,” said Brandon Jenkins, a national college basketball recruiting analyst for 247Sports. “That’s why you have so many examples of kids leaving their local public or private schools, that are governed by state bodies, and going to these schools that compete on a national scale.”

But private schools in Colorado require zero regulation by the state. Accreditation is optional and certification of teachers is not mandatory because they are classified as “small businesses” by the U.S. Department of Education. That lack of oversight, historically, has led to scandals at athletic-based schools in other states.

Powerhouse IMG Academy (Florida) was featured in an ESPN televised football game in August, but the network failed to properly vet IMG’s opponent — Bishop Sycamore (Ohio). The school was later revealed as a sham after it played two games in three days, lacked proper equipment and lied to officials about its academics. Bishop Sycamore’s remaining opponents canceled their games and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called for an investigation.

It’s a stark reminder for athletes and parents considering alternative high school education focused on athletics. The only thing stopping a Bishop Sycamore scenario from taking place in Colorado are the adults in charge. Is the state’s next generation of basketball stars in good hands?

Denver Prep Academy is making its case.

“We’re gonna do what’s best for kids,” said Ray Valdez, DPA’s co-founder, and head basketball coach. “That’s our mantra and what we’re going to say over and over. That’s our life work.”

***

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Denver Prep Academy’s Kaleb Mitchell, 17, right, and Chandler Wilson Jr., 18, run to the gym from the dorm to catch the morning meeting with principal Eric Mosley on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.

The morning practice ends and DPA players walk next door to a four-bedroom house to find principal Eric Mosley. He’s in the kitchen whipping up breakfast.

“If the organization needs it, we’re not above anything,” said Mosley, a 12th-year educator, who joined DPA this fall after managing Aurora Central High School’s special education department. “They eat it for the most part.”

DPA launched its school Aug. 30, with Fall as its first student, and has since grown enrollment to 10 basketball players. The majority sleep, eat, study and train out of this lease-to-own property where pods of three teenagers share living spaces throughout the roughly 6,000-square-foot home. A chore list is posted on the wall. Players scrub toilets, mop floors, clean dishes and wash windows.

They’ve moved from cities across the U.S. to be here: Justin Daniels (Los Angeles), Chilaydrien Newton (Rustin, La.) and Chandler Wilson (Springfield, Mass.) to name a few.

“I’ve clicked with everybody here because we’re all here for the same reason,” Daniels said. “Everyone knows what they need to do in the house and they get it done.”

Denver Prep Academy principal Eric Mosley, ...

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

LEFT: Denver Prep Academy principal Eric Mosley, left, makes protein smoothies and breakfast for Kaleb Mitchell, 17, right, and five other basketball players at the school’s dorm on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. RIGHT: Denver Prep Academy’s Justin Daniels, 17, front, and Kaleb Mitchell, 17, do laundry before their morning meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.

DPA begins play in the Grind Session league next month with tournaments scheduled in Arizona, California, Nevada, Kentucky and South Carolina. The program will host a national showcase in late February, potentially at Ball Arena, that is expected to draw a star-studded California prep school — Donda Academy — founded by Kanye West.

“To be able to travel around with this team is going to be really fun. I want to be seen on a national level,” said Kaleb Mitchell, a 6-foot-10 senior forward who left Fountain-Fort Carson High School to join DPA. “I’d rather join something that’s just beginning and be that first group than join something that’s already going on. But it’s obviously a risk.”

DPA’s co-founders sold players on their vision.

Lincoln High School won consecutive 4A basketball state titles (2007-08) with athletic director Dominic Martinez and assistant coach Ray Valdez. They are now the basketball brains behind DPA, along with Greg Willis, a longtime director of the state’s most prominent AAU team (Colorado Hawks). Steve Hess, a former Nuggets strength-and-conditioning coach, is the school’s director of performance. Dominique Collier, the former Denver East and CU Buffs point guard, is an assistant coach.

Valdez and Martinez dreamed of building a college prep basketball giant in the Rockies with players recruited from across the globe. Willis, the school’s director of scouting, has already created a Senegal pipeline with Fall and Diop as his latest blue-chip discoveries. Their arrival made DPA a destination school before it played a single game.

“Everybody here was a star on their team,” Valdez said. “We have a bunch of guys who can all play.”

Baye Fall, front, and teammates are ...

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Baye Fall, center, and teammates leave the gym floor after the Denver Prep Academy’s morning practice on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.

The required financial investment is significant. Tuition, fees, travel, food, recruiting services, room and board for the 2021-22 school year is $50,560, as listed on DPA’s website. Players who commute from home or enroll in its post-graduate program pay a reduced rate and every student receives some form of financial aid. Parents submit tax returns with tuition adjusted based on family income.

DPA also seeks out local community members or businesses willing to “take interest and champion a kid,” Valdez said. There are currently two out-of-state players that have been sponsored. The school also plans to unveil an endowment program — with a goal to receive $1,000 donations from 1,000 people — to help cover athlete scholarships.

Mosley, the school’s principal/morning cook, was brought in to help ensure academic integrity. But he quickly discovered the state provides few barriers for a growing market of private sports-based education in Colorado.

“We were shocked as we were going through this process,” Mosley said. “They told us: You can just open a school.”

***

An afternoon DPA strength workout finishes up and players are dropped off at the nearby Westwood Community Center. They carry backpacks with school-provided laptops for class with one of five teachers, contracted part-time employees, on a rotating schedule in rented space.

A handful of DPA athletes are seated at tables positioned in a half-circle. Their instructor, Shazia Sulehria, is reviewing their latest assignment for a creative writing lesson — short first-person biographies for the team’s online basketball roster.

Teacher Shazia Sulehria, third from left, ...

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Instructor Shazia Sulehria, center, works with Michael Lewis during a creative writing class on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.

“I know these are some really amazing athletes but I’m not grading them differently,” said Sulehria, an administrator at Aurora Public Schools with 11 years of teaching experience. “There are a couple of second-language learners. Others are super-advanced.”

There is no one-size-fits-all education model for athletics-based schools in the state.

Colorado Prep, founded by former CU Buffs guard Xavier Silas, started in 2020 and is part of an extension program with St. Mary’s High School (Colorado Springs). It gives CP access to well-established private school resources — academic and social — with flexible schedules to accommodate for the Grind Session. CP’s top player, senior guard Langston Reynolds, transferred from Denver East and is committed to play for the University of Northern Colorado.

“This model is done in other places. We’re the first to do it in the state of Colorado,” Silas said. “It’s something that just makes a lot of sense. You let the experts be the experts.”

Rocky Mountain Sports Academy, founded by longtime Northern Colorado club coach Anthony Coleman, launched its prep school this fall after several years as a well-known AAU program. Most students learn fully remote while enrolled in a Colorado-based online high school called Astravo.

“If they can still get the educational side without physically being in the classroom, where it’s at their own pace, then what would be the point of going to class for six-and-a-half hours?” Coleman said. “COVID actually propelled prep schools coming out more in Colorado.”

Denver Prep Academy, founded through a nonprofit called Building Futures, chose the most ambitious plan. Start from scratch and establish something permanent. Step one: Get cleared and approved by the NCAA.

Denver Prep Academy principal Eric Mosley, ...

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Denver Prep Academy principal Eric Mosley, left, checks homework with students on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.

Principal Mosley spearheaded the lengthy process with dozens of documents — attendance and grading policies, instructional models, learning cycles and teacher evaluations among them — submitted to college sports’ governing body. DPA, after several months of review, earned its accreditation.

That means the NCAA recognizes DPA’s core content courses — English, math (Algebra 1 or higher), natural or physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy — all required for the “initial-eligibility certification process.” Students will graduate with academic transcripts that meet college admission standards for playing NCAA sports.

DPA’s faculty is licensed by the state to teach in Colorado. Students are enrolled in classes for at least 13 hours/week plus four hours of dedicated study hall. DPA electives are all basketball training periods that do not count toward NCAA eligibility.

“It’s more like a college. You have to get the work done right and in a certain amount of time,” said Mitchell, the senior Fountain-Fort Carson transfer, who is considering Colorado School of Mines for its geology program. “People should know that if you want to come here or be a part of this, you’ve got to be ready to work. There’s an expectation.”

***

A full moon glows over DPA’s gym when the last players exit an evening shootaround. Three workouts over 24 hours to prepare for the season. Tomorrow, they’ll do it all again.

“We’ll sometimes wake up tired but we know the bigger picture and where we want to go in life,” said Daniels, the DPA guard from Los Angeles. “This is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made.”

Denver Prep Academy's Michael Lewis, 16, ...

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Denver Prep Academy’s Michael Lewis, 16, takes a break in his dorm room after physical training on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.

DPA calls its education plan a “service-learning curriculum” that emphasizes social justice initiatives with a predominantly Black enrollment. The school has added an intern from the University of Denver, earning practice hours toward counseling certification, to provide hands-on mental health resources for the team. DPA has a partnership with Special Olympics and other nonprofits for fundraising events.

In class, players were assigned to complete a year-long project that gives back to their community in a meaningful way. Fall — a 7-footer ranked as the nation’s No. 1 center in the Class of 2023 by 247Sports — is organizing a drive to donate recycled shoes to his home country of Senegal.

“We talk about ethics of things that happen in everyday life. Especially for us, as young Black athletes, that’s a big thing,” Mitchell said. “It’s important to see all aspects of it, negative and positive, and to know how we should be treated. And how we should treat others.”

Denver Prep Academy's Mason Hudnall, 16, ...

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Denver Prep Academy’s Mason Hudnall, 16, heads to the kitchen for lunch at the school’s dorm on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.

DPA embarks on its first school year with only six full-time employees. But its long-term vision is grand.

The school is nearing the purchase of a large vacant lot directly north of the gym to build a new facility. Early renderings include classrooms, dorm housing, a nutrition center and additional practice space at an estimated cost of around $7 million. Its fundraising model mirrors college athletics.

Jonathan Barnett, DPA co-founder and chief marketing officer, provided the initial push. He started the company Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning in 2006 and it has since expanded to over 450 locations across the U.S. and Canada. Barnett’s DPA investment resulted in naming rights for its home gymnasium — Oxi Fresh Arena. He is currently the school’s largest benefactor.

But DPA doesn’t see its growth stopping there.

It hired Jason Gold, the former dean of student services for Denver Public Schools, to spearhead an initiative to develop another DPA campus — in the mountains. It’s a seven-year plan to either secure land or purchase existing buildings to bring DPA’s sports offerings full circle: swimming, soccer, lacrosse, rock climbing, skiing/snowboarding and more. The proposed facilities would look like a small college campus. Potential locations are currently being scouted.

“We’re not trying to find the next great snowboarder or rock climber,” Gold said. “What we will be doing is creating a system where kids have access to the outdoors every single day in the morning where they can ski, snowboard, bike, hike, rock climb, raft, fish, hunt, and whatever they’re interested in up there.

“Then we focus on the academic side in the afternoon and evenings.”

1635077045 295 How private basketball prep schools in Colorado are redefining athlete

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Denver Prep Academy’s Assane Diop, top center, controls a rebound against Cbo Newton during a team practice on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.

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Kiszla: Boring and irrelevant, the Broncos won’t get back in championship discussion until they find new owner

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Kiszla: Boring and irrelevant, the Broncos won’t get back in championship discussion until they find new owner

Now that Mike Shanahan has sold his dream home in Colorado for $15 million and change, could we interest Jeff Bezos or some other billionaire in buying a little fixer-upper of an NFL franchise for $3.5 billion?

The Broncos could use some serious TLC. They’re worse than bad. They’re boring.

While swapping out Teddy Bridgewater for Drew Lock at quarterback, firing offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur or declaring coach Vic Fangio as another bad personnel decision by John Elway might momentarily quell the cries of disgust from Broncos Country, nothing truly significant is going to change with this franchise until it finds a new owner.

I’m so very weary of looking for scapegoats for a team that appears doomed to miss the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.

What this once-proud franchise needs is a scrape-off. Take it down to the studs and leave nothing but a rock-solid foundation that is one of the most loyal fan bases in sports. The Broncos need an owner with the money and vision to reinvent their greatness and maybe even build a stadium with one of those fancy retractable roofs.

That rousing victory in Super Bowl 50, which seems like a long time ago, was a final salute to the passion for excellence Pat Bowlen infused in his beloved team. But in retrospect, didn’t that championship feel like putting the band back together for one more rockin’ good time, with Elway enlisting old pals Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips, not to mention quarterback Peyton Manning, a Hall of Famer looking to go out in a blaze of glory.

Now? It’s well past time for the Broncos to stop living in the past.

Maybe first-year general manager George Paton was correct to pick polished cornerback Pat Surtain II over raw quarterback Justin Fields with his first pick in his first draft. But can there be any denial that Paton borrowed a dog-eared template off Elway’s desk in the hope a world-class defense could carry a journeyman quarterback through the back door to a spot in the league’s playoff bracket?

If you don’t mind, allow me to shout what many disgruntled fans in Broncos Country are thinking:

Enough already!

Bridgewater might be a righteous leader of men, but he was brought here as a vote of no confidence in Lock. After regressing toward the mean since a 3-0 start, Teddy B. has also revealed himself to be little more than a stop-gap QB.

Although there’s no cheering in the press box, I personally like Uncle Vic as well as any Broncos head coach since Wade Phillips briefly held the job during the early 1990s. But like Phillips, the skillset and personality of Fangio are better suited to being a defensive coordinator.

Some look at the current sorry state of the Broncos and ask: What would Mr. B do? So please forgive me for not bowing in worship of Saint Pat when I wonder: Why was Bowlen so terrible at estate planning? The disarray and dysfunction currently plaguing this franchise are in large part because he had no workable plan for succession.

Now here we are, with everyone from linebacker Von Miller to Fangio vowing to be better, as the Broncos pray to stop a four-game losing streak against sorry Washington, improve their record to 4-4 and pretend they are in a playoff hunt.

That might be well and good, but who are the Broncos kidding except themselves? This isn’t a legit championship contender.

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