SHERIDAN — It happens every year around this time. And no, it isn’t the mercury that continues to drop or the purchasing of Valentine’s gifts but rather the increased production from a starter on the Sheridan High School boys basketball team.
Parker Christensen has seen an uptick in his point total and floor time recently, and that’s nothing new for the Sheridan senior.
“This is typically how it is,” Christensen said. “I feel like once we get toward conference, I start to feel a little bit more comfortable.”
Christensen has played basketball for a good portion of his life, so the rigors and rules of the game aren’t foreign to him. However, the transition from the football field to hardwood always stands as a complex one.
“Going out of football, it’s a little bit rough toward the beginning,” Christensen said.
Football is a collision sport, especially in Christensen’s multiple roles.
There wasn’t much that the 2018 Wyoming Gatorade Player of the Year didn’t do this past season for the Broncs.
Christensen played in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams. He carried the ball 132 times as a running back, recorded 85 tackles from his linebacker position and returned 10 kickoffs.
That’ll take a toll on anyone’s body, and the future Wyoming Cowboy was not immune.
“He was beat up a little bit,” Sheridan basketball head coach Jeff Martini said. “… He was just grinding in football every day.”
Christensen tried to stop by the gym every once in a while during football season to shoot around a little.
But with the fall representing his last as a high schooler, Christensen devoted most of his time to improving the skill that landed him a full-ride scholarship at UW.
Individuals such as Tristan Bower and Gus Wright gave basketball their undivided attention in the fall, and didn’t need much time, if any, to find their form once the season began in early December. In the first 10 games of the season, Bower, Wright and Sam Lecholat — a golfer who can delve into basketball much sooner than Christensen with the golf season ending well before football — carried the Broncs’ basketball team to a 9-1 start.
In those first 10 games, Christensen averaged 9.7 points per game. In the last five games — contests in which the Broncs have beaten their opponents by an average of 19.2 points — Sheridan’s football standout has averaged 17.4 points per game.
“His shots are starting to drop, and he’s starting get in that basketball shape,” Bower said. “His stamina on the court is better. His moves are cleaner.”
While football had Christensen in good athletic shape, the sport of basketball requires a different set of skills. Where football encompasses more short bursts of energy — each play lasting on average six or seven seconds — basketball can have several-minute stretches where action doesn’t stop and players are running up and down the 84-foot court.
“It’s a different kind of in-shape you have to be,” Martini said. “Whatever sport you’re playing, when you go to another one, you’re just not necessarily ready. I think it took time for [Christensen] to get his legs back.”
Martini can see his starting wing beginning to play with more confidence. Where Christensen may have hesitated on firing a 3-pointer in December, he’s not thinking twice about elevating for one now.
The football standout turned basketball starter has found his form, making the 14-1 Broncs that much more lethal.