By Larry Gage
Special to the PRESS
If we’re in the middle of the district season of football, basketball season can’t be far away.
In fact, practice for Port Isabel boys’ hoops is set to start next Wednesday, October 30th.
The Press found head Tarpon basketball coach, Mike Hazelton, in the athletic department this week, and he shared his thoughts on the state of the program heading into the 2019-’20 season.
“Every year is different in high school basketball,” Hazelton said Tuesday. “You have kids graduating and new kids coming up.”
Among other changes, Hazelton expects to put a bigger, stronger team on the court this season. He talked about how hard the players have worked all through the off-season to get ready for the real season.
“Quite honestly, they got pushed around a little bit against Sinton. They were more physical than we were. The kids noted that and took it upon themselves … we talked about it and they decided, ‘Let’s bulk up.’”
“The kids got in the weight room – they realized they had to get bigger and more physical. We were a smaller, guard-oriented team. They’re putting time in the weight room, and they’re growing physically and maturing. Now we’re a bigger team. All those guys are a little bit bigger than they were last year.”
Some of “those guys” Coach Hazelton was talking about include Cole Pinkerton, Daniel Rinza, Dennis Lozano, and Jason Lowe.
“It’s his third year on Varsity,” Hazelton said, referring to Pinkerton. “His first year, he kinda’ bounced back and forth between Junior-Varsity and Varsity. He was 14-years old when he started playing Varsity basket-ball. He’s very talented and he understands the game. He’s going to go far.”
Daniel Rinza; “He gets better every year and he’s a little bigger this year. He can go inside, outside – he’s got a beautiful, smooth-looking shot. He never played JV ball – he went straight from the freshmen team to Varsity.”
Jason Lowe; “He came up his sophomore year, right at the end, and played a little bit in the tournament. He got in more playing time last year.”
Senior, and third-year Varsity team member Dennis Lozano also moved up quickly through the ranks, starting his freshman year. “He never played freshmen ball – he started out on JV.”
Hazelton emphasized the importance of defense in basketball, a game in which, with so much scoring, defense seems not to exist.
That old football saying, “Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships,” can also apply to football.
“As much time as you spend shooting and working on your offensive game, some-times it’s just not there. But the defense is more of a hustle type of thing, and if you’re consistent with it and you get after it, you can stay in games where you’re not playing well offensively.”
So then, speaking of offense, Coach, can these guys shoot?
“Pretty much all the kids we have now can shoot from outside and go inside, so they’re very versatile. They can shoot the three, they can go to the rim, and they can defend.”
Most of the players have even been getting in more than a little tournament action. Just last week a Tarpon team played in the RGVBCA tournament in San Benito. They won all four games and took the tournament title. In order, starting with the first game, P.I. beat San Benito, Donna, Brownsville Hannah and, in the championship game, Harlingen South.
These “off-season” tournaments are played with no coaches present and are perfectly legal under UIL rules.
Let the season begin.