OAKES: Curtis Cotton Jr. Memorial Tournament starts strong


Curtis Cotton Jr. filled up the baskets at Rangeview High School for four years.

Eight youth teams and eight high school/young adult teams took their turns doing the same in the late basketball star’s honor on Aug. 11 at the first Curtis Cotton Jr. Memorial 3 on 3 Tournament.

The Cotton family was very pleased with the initial turnout of teams to play in memory of Cotton Jr., who died on May 7, 2010, at the age of 23 from injuries suffered in a single-car accident on Interstate 225 near East Iliff Avenue. The roughly $600 raised by the tournament is earmarked to help provide school supplies for needy children in Aurora.

Members of the TNT A Team that won the youth division of the Curtis Cotton Jr. Memorial 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament pose with their championship trophy on Aug. 11, 2012, at Rangeview High School. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

“I was speechless as soon as I walked into the gym; you can never imagine when you put something like this together for the first time,” Curtis Cotton Sr. said.

“I’m so proud of everybody who came,” he added. “I hope we can keep it alive and do it for a good cause. …We are fortunate in so many ways, so we should be able to give back. Right now, I feel very good.”

Cotton Jr., an explosive 6-foot-3 guard, still ranks fourth on Rangeview’s all-time scoring list with 1,036 points scored between 2000-04. He averaged 25.2 points per game for the Raiders as a senior in the 2003-04 season, in which he made the starting five of the Aurora Sentinel’s All-City Boys Basketball Team and also played in The Show All-Star Game at Pepsi Center as part of the top 20 players in the state.

Former Rangeview players Jeffrey and Gabe Solarin, Jamal Wright and Jerome Harris — aka Team Super J-G — won the memorial tournament championship in the high school/young adult age bracket, which included a number of alumni of the school as well as players from nearby Eaglecrest High School.

Jeffrey Solarin — the Aurora Sentinel’s 2010-11 boys basketball player of the year who is now at Northwestern Community College in Wyoming — got to high school a few years after Cotton Jr. graduated in 2004, but heard him speak a few times at practice.

“I didn’t know him personally, but he came and talked to us a couple of times and just let us know what it took to play the game of basketball at the high school level,” said Solarin, whose team bounced back from a loss in its opening game to former teammates Larry and Trey Bridges.

“It was great to play in this tournament. I hope they do it every year,” he added. “Just to know that he walked in these halls and he played on that court. Every time we stepped on the court, we did it for him.”

Cotton Sr. was encouraged to see kids in the community come together, develop bonds and exhibit sportsmanship. Those were a few of the things he said the game of basketball instilled in his son.

“We talked about it a lot; basketball and sports in general can take you to far corners of life and meet people all over the world,” Cotton Sr. said. “You can make friends for life and always carry yourself with respect. That’s what he did.”

TNT’s A Team won the youth division championship.

Rangeview coach Shawn Palmer, who coached Cotton Jr. for his last two seasons, worked with the family to organize the tournament and is hoping to make it a tradition.

“It was a great turnout, so we hope to keep doing it in the future,” said Palmer, whose son played on a team in the youth bracket.

Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555