High energy on display as Nuggets hold scrimmage in Aurora

AURORA – As the Denver Nuggets warmed up on the Gateway High School basketball court, point guard Andre Miller invited a handful of students to step on the floor a take a shot.

Miller smiled and exchanged high fives when a jumper found the net, and he offered support when it missed the mark.

Miller’s interactive pregame exchange was among the priceless highlights Wednesday night as the Nuggets held their annual team scrimmage in front of an estimated 1,600 Gateway students, faculty and staff.

“It’s been another great example of the community support we’ve had,” Gateway principal Bill Hedges said. “I got a little emotional at the beginning of the game because our kids and our staff have been through so much … I think you’ve made 1,500 lifelong Nuggets fans here tonight.”

Gateway is about 1.2 miles south of the Century 16 Theater where a gunman opened fire during a midnight premier of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20. Twelve people were killed, including one Gateway student, and dozens injured in the shooting.

In the hours and days following the tragedy, Gateway served as a gathering place for families as they sought information from law enforcement authorities.

“I don’t think there’s anybody in this building who wasn’t affected to some degree,” Hedges said. “It was a pretty tough day for us. There have been so many awesome stories and events that have happened since then that restore your faith in humanity after a tragedy like that.”

The Nuggets were honored to be part of the ongoing healing process.

“They definitely have our support,” center Kosta Koufos said. “You heard stories about boyfriends taking bullets for their girlfriends. They’re definitely the true heroes. They were very courageous.”

After pregame performances by the Denver Nuggets Dancers and SuperMascot Rocky, Koufos and his teammates ran through a tunnel of Gateway students as they were introduced.

At halftime, the Nuggets autographed souvenir mini-balls and threw them into the enthusiastic crowd.

“We always want to be an important part of the community because we need the community to support us,” Denver coach George Karl said.

“This group of guys has a consciousness to their character and giving back. Their awareness of what’s going on outside the game of basketball is at a pretty high level.”

The Gateway students cheered, clapped and chanted throughout most of the 40-minute game.

They were treated to plenty of alley-oop dunks and long-range three-pointers, mostly by a blue team led by point guard Jordan Hamilton, Ty Lawson and JaVale McGee.

The blue team jumped out to a 13-point lead after one quarter and rolled to a 90-72 win over a white squad that featured Koufos, Miller and Andre Iguodala.

The final score, of course, was insignificant.

No one could lose at Gateway on Wednesday night.