KIRTLAND — For as long as he can remember, Christian Mackey has wanted to play Division I basketball.

And now he'll get the chance to do that.

The Kirtland Central High School senior signed his National Letter of Intent with the University of Denver on Tuesday at Bronco Arena in Kirtland.

"It's amazing. I was shocked. It felt surreal, like I was dreaming," Mackey said. "I really wanted to play Division I basketball, and I want to thank Denver for giving me the opportunity. I also want to thank the supporters from around here. I'm proud to say I come from the Kirtland family."

Mackey was on the verge of committing to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., but he caught the attention of the Denver coaching staff a couple of weeks ago at an AAU tournament in Las Vegas.

"It kind of came up all of the sudden," Mackey's high school coach John Zecca said. "They sent me an email, so I called one of their assistant coaches. They contacted him and flew him and his mother up there, and the rest is history. I'm just extremely happy for him, because this is what he wanted."

Mackey was one of the top post players in New Mexico, averaging just more than 20 points and 10 rebounds a game for the Broncos.

"It was a lot of early mornings and late nights with coach Zecca and Brian Doughty, who worked with me a lot my sophomore year to get here," Mackey said. "My coaches always believed in me on and off the court."

Denver competes in The Summit League, where the Pioneers finished fourth last season and had a 16-15 record.

Zecca believes Mackey still has some work to do in refining his overall game. But he said once Mackey gets to Denver and begins competing against Division I athletes, his game will only get better.

"He's going to have to polish everything up," Zecca said. "He won't just be down on the blocks like he was for us, but he's been expanding his game. He's been working quite a bit. He can be a pretty good weapon at any level."

Mackey said he can't wait to get to work improving his game and helping the DU program in any way he can.

"They said they really wanted me for my rebounding," he said. "I just have to work on my game to get ready for that level. I can't wait to get to know my teammates well. When I was there, I felt this strong family vibe."

Josh Perry covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648 and jperry@daily-times.com. Follow him @jperrysuu on Twitter