Chris Helbig, a 2016 point guard for the Holy Family Tigers, a school in Broomfield (CO), was the floor general for a 3A state championship team as a sophomore.
"We knew Chris as a freshman," Holy Family coach Pete Villecco said of Helbig. "He played a lot of JV. Last summer, he really started to grow as a player. We knew that going into the season we were going to give him the keys. From day one, he was a game-changer for us. He was just a playmaker and someone that was able to run the show for us and get us into an offense, run the break, and stop the ball defensively at the one spot."
"It started with a really good summer between his freshman and sophomore seasons and that kind of gave him a lot of confidence," Villecco added. "He's a confident kid, but going into his sophomore year after football season he felt really good about being our starting point guard. He improved throughout the year. He's a learner and a competitor."
On a senior laden team, Helbig accepted his role as a playmaker with a great presence on the floor and the ability to score, when needed. He played with poise.
"We played well as a team," Helbig said of his sophomore campaign. "I was more of a distributor this season, because we had balanced scoring throughout the starting five. I looked to pass to an assist more than to score."
In a highly touted regular season matchup between the top two ranked teams in 3A and the two squads who faced off in the state finals, Holy Family and Colorado Academy, Helbig more than held his own against a talented 2016 trio of guards. Colorado Academy's Justin Bassey, Jack Buckmelter (now at Denver East), and Christian Hyatt came in with more hype and played well, but Helbig impressed with 17 points, including several critical baskets, and displayed smarts and the ability to facilitate.
Holy Family's young point guard was a stronghold throughout the year at the 1 spot for an outstanding 25-2 team. Villecco loves Helbig's dedication to the game.
"First of all, he's a gym rat, which in today's day and age is kind of extinct," Villecco said. "The kid loves to play basketball. That's number one. Number two, he's got a good work ethic. He invests a lot of time. You know he's also a football player, so he invests a lot of time with our football program at Holy Family and with our program and working on his game with his Titans team. He's a worker."
"Number three is his length. For a point guard, he's got good size. He's 6'3, he's long, he's deceptively athletic, he's got good vision, and he's really smart."
Colorado Titans Director Rick Jimenez, Helbig's AAU team, also praised the 2016 guard's work ethic.
"Chris Helbig really brings so many different intangibles to his game in terms of basketball IQ and saviness. He's just an all-around basketball player, really loves the game, student of the game. Obviously, being 6'3, long, athletic, those are going to help a basketball player get to that high level and he's done that over the course of the years."
"He puts in time, he's a gym rat," Jimenez echoed. "He's always in the gym, always looking to play, working on his shot. He's not a guy that's going to go to a gym to play a game just to play a game. He wants to compete, he wants to play against the best, he's a true competitor, and for being 16 years old, that's hard to find in this day and age. Chris just wants to get better every single day and he has that desire to become better."
At 180 pounds, Helbig has a good body for a young point guard, but says he wants to keep working on strength and also quickness. Villecco added that his improving shot will need to keep progressing.
"Number one is his shooting," Villecco said of an area of Helbig's game he will need to improve. "He didn't shoot the three as well as he would've liked. He's put a lot of time in on that. The three ball is the big area that he needs to grow. We've seen signs of that already in June, his ability to stretch people and shoot it at a better percentage."
"Number two is being able to defend quicks, keep a really quick kid in front. Guarding the ball is an area he needs to get better. Chris has change of speed athleticism. He changes speeds well. He's not real explosive. He's more of a change speeds type, get into the paint that way. For him to be able to guard quicks is something that he has to work on. He's got good length. Him being on the AAU circuit right now is going to help him with that, just competing against good athletes."
"When he was a sophomore, we had a strong senior group. We had five seniors and guys who had been around a while, but now we're going to need his voice more. His voice is going to need to improve. Those three things right there," Villecco said of Helbig improving his shooting, his ability to guard the ball, and his leadership.
Helbig and his Colorado Titans 16's teammate, Justinian Jessup, have both been opening eyes on the AAU circuit lately. Jessup boasts an offer from Northern Colorado and has received interest from Pepperdine, Colorado, and Denver. Helbig has yet to receive college interest, but it hasn't been for lack of performance. Jimenez said the point guard, who views himself as a combo guard at the next level, has been outstanding for the Titans this July.
"In Milwaukee, he was unbelievable," Jimenez said of Helbig's performance at an NY2LA invitational. "We played six games and he might've had 20 plus in four of them and was just really carrying the load."
"It's a quiet 20 whenever he's doing it," Jimenez added. "It's not like he's just continuously going off. He's real careful in his shot selection. He gets to the rack real well. He's out in transition a lot, so he runs the floor really well and Justinian (Jessup) and Jose (Orrantia) will feed him in transition and will allow him to score. Chris gets a lot out of the defensive end with his length. He has really good instincts. Yes, he may score 20, but it's his defense that's fueling that for him. He played really well in Milwaukee and he played really well in California."
Helbig is also a standout multi-position player on the gridiron for a perennially strong Holy Family football program.
"I'm not really sure what I want to play in college for sure," Helbig said. "I would love to play basketball at the next level if the opportunity arose. I'm definitely leaning toward basketball right now."
"I think he can for sure play," Villecco added about Helbig's potential as a basketball prospect. "I'm not that guy whose like, oh, my kid can play here or there, but I do think he can play at the next level. I spent six years in the RMAC. I was a grad assistant at Adams State and I was around recruiting a lot. I think he can play. I don't know what level, but he can for sure play at the next level if he continues to invest time in the gym."
In the meantime, Helbig is focused on his performance with the Titans and in helping his Holy Family squad make the transition to the 4A level this winter.
"Obviously, we don't want to lower our expectations even going up a classification and I believe we have a team to make a run at it again," Helbig said of attempting to repeat as state champions. "Coach Villecco pushes us to be the best and we have bought in. I, along with the other returners, want to lead the team and have a strong leadership core."
Villecco and Jimenez are certainly confident in letting Helbig be the floor general for their teams. Both coaches believe he has the intangibles on and off the court to reach his full potential.
"He's a great kid, he's a humble kid, and he comes from a great family," Jimenez said. "That goes a long way, I know, with colleges and when they're recruiting and what kind of kid is he. There's a lot of upside to Chris."